Tuesday, 27 May 2014

MY FIRST REVIEW FOR MY FIRST YOGA RETREAT!!!!!!!! www.atozenofyoga.com

My Yoga Experience with Sarah Tucker at A to Zen of Yoga

It should be said that I have never done any Yoga before and it was with some apprehension that I booked myself on a three day retreat to the beautiful Aveyron department of France to learn Yoga from someone I hardly knew. I have, like many of us been burning rather too much of the candle lately;  and between work and having three kids the stresses of life tend to build up. I figured that three days was enough to dip my toes in but Sarah, who runs the courses generously suggested that I could arrive the day before the course to settle in.

I will split my view into three areas, the setting, the Yoga and the overall experience and outcome.

The setting is simply stunning, remote but not isolated, homely but sophisticated and the accommodation is of very high quality in the Gite where I stayed. The main house is a wonderful space also and a great reelection of the owners taste. The property has amazing grounds and a pool and plenty of places to sit, reflect and enjoy the incredible feeling the place has. It really does have a relaxing and calming air to it. 

Car-hire and access from Toulouse or Rodez are easy. I drove from Toulouse and avoided the tolls and thoroughly enjoyed the drive through classic french, tree lined avenues and uber-pretty medieval villages. The local towns and villages also make for an excellent interlude into great food and wonderful markets and in our case some inspirational walks. The scenery and landscape are totally awe inspiring. Najac, the local town is a delight in itself and provides incredible views and the architecture is jaw dropping.

Beyond but local are the beautiful Lagupie, Albi, Cordes, and Gaillac which all have significant charm, beauty and interest for the gastronome in you.

The Yoga was a revelation and Sarah is an excellent instructor. The focus that she puts on a holistic approach really works as she brings together breathing, moving and alignment in a clear challenging but always flowing fashion. Sarah also takes time to notice and understand your emotional, mindset and spiritual attitudes to really provide something truly tailored to your needs. She also integrated meditation and visualisation techniques seamlessly into the sessions and this also really helped prepare me properly for each set of movements.

Over the three days I saw a significant improvement in my flexibility, strength and also my state of mind, emotion and general wellbeing. It was also a real eye opener for me as I felt a real release in each area of my body. The level of challenge was well maintained through the three days and Sarah also focused effort on great aromatherapy massage and reflexology as part of my retreat. This really added to the experience as a welcome and indulgent way to end each challenging Yoga session. Throughout the Yoga, Sarah maintains a great attitude and a wonderful sense of humour.

In terms of the overall experience and outcome I cannot recommend A to Zen, and Sarah, highly enough. She is a caring and attentive host and loves preparing excellent local produce into healthy, tasty and satisfying meals. She will also, if encouraged correctly, have a wine on occasion and her conversation is always relevant, interesting and delivered with a wonderful playfulness. She is a person of significant achievement and experience and this also helps a great deal.

If you are looking for a really unique experience of personalised, challenging and thoroughly rewarding Yoga and wellbeing then go to A to Zen. It is one of the best experiences I have had full stop. I came away feeling relaxed, refreshed and totally intent on making Yoga a part of my daily routine. Simply brilliant!


Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I am sure it said somewhere that there would be an issue with cars in the year of the horse. Perhaps we should all return to the original horse power.   I used Hertz car hire. I will not use them again.  They have a deal with Ryanair where its cheaper but I usually use Europcar.    They have charged me twice.  They also 'hold' £400 from your account as a deposit when you collect your car at the airport. Or take 1000 euros in cash as a deposit. Unless you are a banker who else has that sort of money in their pocket?  It says they do this somewhere in the small print. I also bought a full tank of petrol when I hired the car. I didn't know this.   But this is what the guy told me.  

I am still waiting for my money. If I don't get it back I will tell the world.

Next my car.  So chilled was I when I returned from France, I remembered where the car was park, the number the lane, the bus stop - none of this do I usually remember. So chilled was I that I forgot to take the red coat I had arrived in.  Which had the car keys in it.   So the car remains in Stansted airport car park, and I will collect tomorrow.  They understand. It happens a lot they said at the car park reception (nice lady called Vicky) and I took the coach to Liverpool Street (very good value £9), and hit the rush hour with the suits.   Thank goodness I did the yoga.   Despite the fuss I was still the only chilled one on that tube and train home.


Monday, 19 May 2014


I've been up all night. Just back from my first yoga retreat which I think went really well. Catching up with admin.

Tom and I are blessed.  We live in a lovely location in France which has wonderful energy so whether you're doing downward dogs or backward bends or just sipping a kir, (although hopefully the yoga adds considerably to the experience).  The sun shone (although I'm told it did here too) and Arsenal won so Tom is a very happy chap.

Before I left for France I met Danielle de Winter (beauty shot and skinologie) - this time in person.  She does not have a wrinkle on her face (no botox) so a brilliant exponent of what she sells and tells.  

We happened to meet at the Wholefoods shop thats in Richmond.   I admit, I go there when there's a sale on.   Danielle remarked on the prices noting that 'it's cheaper in Monte Carlo than it is here," looking at the nuts.

There's a brand of food called Paleo which focuses on the ingredients we used to eat when we were hunting for our own food (so raw mostly and grain based - unless we caught the live food).   There was some 'Paleo' food in the shop but she noticed that it had been roasted so wasn't strictly part of that diet.  I admit I've never heard of it, but she recommends it, as she does walnuts (brain food, they look like brains after all) and almonds (appetite suppressants as well as full of good stuff).

We went to the fish and meat counter.  The guy knew where everything was sourced, didn't expand or exaggerate on how good or bad anything was, and told us why cold smoking is better than hot smoking (choose cold never hot).    Mackerel is usually hot smoked, salmon can be both.    Most salmon is farmed, don't touch it.  Ditto trout.   If you saw how it was farmed you wouldn't go near it.   And ask about the various standards of 'eco' when you buy chicken and fish at any shop - actually try to go somewhere where you can ask.  

And I'm even starting to learn my lesson with protecting myself from the sun. I wore a hat. I never wear a hat.  Horse bolted and all that, but at least I'm trying.....

Monday, 12 May 2014


In order of importance at a hotel. what does the customer value of most importance?   The comfort of the bed. The efficiency of the shower.  The variety and qualify of breakfast.   Everything else is cherry. These three are the cake.

Admittedly the bed may not be for sleeping in, the shower for washing in and the breakfast for eating but they didn't ask this question of those vox popped.

And so to sleep.   I attended the wonderful London Corinthia Hotel where films on sleep had been commissioned.   I  met with the good and great - through the rain and dared to pose with a super model.   I left my hat on.  Two films entered fort the British Film Festival were shown. Dark and romantic, The problem of insomnia and the fine line between dream and reality.   Reminded me a bit of the film in Mr Beans Holiday - waiting for Rowan Atkinson to suddenly appear with a prawn up his nose.  He didn't (although they did on the nibble plates handed round), but both films were stylish and beautifully presented.    Like those who attended... Daisy, Zauwe and me...

Sunday, 11 May 2014


check out Ailsa Franks www.hypnobalance.co.uk.      And these minute long and 20 long videos on tips and how to self hypnotize.    More details in Richmond magazine and Radio Gorgeous.


Simon and his friendly dragon.  


Interesting week.

First the gerbil died.

RIP Flapjack. You were the sweetie, loved sitting on the aquarium plug which vibrated and got hot.

Secondly my ex told me (or rather he told our son) he had quit his job at RBS, worked there for 15 years and didn't ask for redundancy because wanted to live, I mean leave, on good terms.   Right.

Next, Tom's parents evening.    Extremely intimidating for Tom as he has to sit in between his parents who would not choose to be on the same planet as each other let alone the same room, but it was OK.  All teachers fine, some great, with us learning more about them than we learnt about Tom (its in the delivery) especially with one teacher who (as if it wasn't intimidating enough for Tom) started with.

"So what do you think I'm going to tell your parents now Tom, huh?  Huh? What would you say about you if you were me?"  Pointing finger the lot.    Tom looked stumped.   I so wanted to say something.

I kept my mouth shut.  

On Saturday I went to the anti ageing fair at Olympia. There I met
Antonia Mariconda (the cosmetic coach).     Bright, beautiful lady who adds integrity to the beauty industry showing its not skin deep.  Met Debbie Arnold, the face of fabyouless card and Lorna Bowes of Aesthetic Source who was recommending product (NeoStrata) which everyone seems to have heard of - but me. There are a lot of 'secrets' out there women keep to themselves or perhaps I've hidden away for such a long time I've missed all this.   Any way, dermatologists recommend it.   (www.neostrata.co.uk).   I saw Linda Lusardi's mum - who looked like her daughter but slightly older (I think it was her any way), and Sharon Davies, although she didn't look like Sharon Davies but it was Sharon Davies. There were a lot of women walking about who looked very surprised. They could have been genuinely surprised of course, like me (see pix), but I'm not sure. I stalked a few and they looked surprised for five minutes continuously.

I met Dr Vincent (dermaroller) who looks younger every time I see him. He will look like an embryo one day which may not be a good thing. Debbie Arnold always looks phenomenal (just off plane from NY), ditto Antonia.    I had to dash back for the fair to meet Tom in Richmond only to realise it was the fair in Barnes he was at.

But I didn't stress. Kept saying 'its amazing, its amazing'.

Next day, I had Edward de Bono round to lunch.  As one does.  Now that IS amazing. And he IS amazing. Wonderful man. The men who talk about themselves the least have the most to say.  

Now must dash. Got essay to write on social and biological influences on psychological development.    All I can say I hope Edward has a greater impact on Tom than some of the other 'social' influences in his life.

Monday, 5 May 2014


you put the caviar on the back of your hand. eat it. then smell the hand. it shouldn't smell of anything as it should be fresh.     other than Chanel I suppose.

glasses by Prada. hiding the bags....

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Interviewing sculptor tomorrow and chipping stone, as one does on a Friday, today I interviewed Danielle De Winter who invented Beauty Shots and Skinergie, power houses of the most potent ingredients I've learnt over the past six months that are either superfoods or super supplements that are great for inside and outside.   Fascinating chat unravelling the confusion of what is good for you and what isn't.   She's made it simple. The equivalent of fast beauty food.

The anti ageing world is full of so much product, so much advice and information, often half picked up and incorrectly reported by journalists (according to the experts), its good to meet someone like Danielle, who has the pedigree but doesn't talk jargon.

Inflamation, be aware of it.   Ageing starts with inflamation.    She wrote her first book at fifteen, her second book 'Eat Yourself Beautiful' was a bestseller (she wrote at 21).    She's the daughter of a pioneering cancer specialist Dr Jan de Winter, and worked with her father in cancer prevention, focusing on the lifestyle choices people can adapt to reduce thir risk of contracting the disease.  She believes health and beauty are inseparable.  So do I, although I do feel some people strive for beauty and youth so much it makes them mentally ill/unstable/obsessive.   That I feel is more to do with the media than the experts or the punters.    I'm not a beauty journalist, I came in as a punter who was told she had wrinkly skin, but I don't actually think its the beauty journalists, I think its the mainstream journos who pick up on the latest research and pick a strap line.   Like sugar is bad for you.   Its not that simple as Danielle explained.   The sugar substitute is worse.   I don't think the papers have mentioned this.

Choose organic everything.  Non organic is full of antibiotics and hormones (which I sort of knew, but not the full implications).  Danielle told me.  So I went out to Tesco and bought chicken for £8 instead of £4.   I'm going to go vegetarian.   But the chicken tasted wonderful. Like erm..chicken.

Anything green eat unless its mold I presume. Kale, broccoli, anything green, eat it. EPA and DHA (keep wanting to write DHL) omega oils.  The beauty industry loves three letter abbreviations.   Algae is good for you, not from the swimming pool.

Other things - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.   And don't stress.   Don't eat calcium supplements, actually don't ever eat calcium supplements.     You can eat a healthy diet but if you don't have the correct supplements you won't absorb the goodness.  So that means you can live off kale but if you don't have the right supplements to help your gut absorb the goodness you might as well be eating rubbish.

Beauty Shots and Skinergie also something you can take with you on your travels. Very handbag friendly.   I like this product.  It's simple stupid.   Quick and with her pedigree, should work.   Going to see if it works over next few months but I liked the lady and what she said.