Star Q&A: Timmy Mallett

Liz Nicholls

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Broadcaster, artist & dad Timmy Mallett, who turns 66 this month, tells Liz Nicholls about family, football, art and his new book Utterly Brilliant – My Life’s Journey

Q. Hello Timmy. It’s wonderful to speak to you & I’ve really enjoyed your book, in fact I cried reading it! Are you pleased with it? “That’s very kind of you, I’m pleased it resonates. I’m proud of it, yes. You don’t know when you write a book how it’s going to go down. I wanted to combine the story of an adventure, a big personal challenge, with memoirs of Wacaday and my radio days and career and things I’ve done over the years, and my love of history and art. How do you do that? And I remember my editor saying: ‘you start at the beginning and crack on and see how it goes’. Haha!”

Q. I loved your drawings at the start of each chapter. “Part of that is to stop and look at where you’ve stopped. I say it in the book: work on the assumption you’re only going to do this once, you’re not going to come back and do it again with more time. It’s not every day can you devote masses of time to drawing so give it all you can in the moment. Sitting down and drawing or sketching or painting is a way of thinking about at the place you’re at and absorbing it. And that’s the nice thing about taking the bike, because you have to think about what you’re going to take. In a car you chuck everything in, but on the bike, you have to be quite precise. It seemed to work.”

Q. Your late brother Martin sounds so inspirational. Do you still talk to him, as you do in the book, and feel he’s still with you? “Thank you. Yes I do, it happens every day, Liz. Every day I have those little conversations with him. He pops up in what we’re doing. I remember when I was planning the adventure I was thinking about Martin and how he reached his potential. It takes the pressure off, in some ways. You haven’t got to be the best or the fastest… you’ve just got to be the best you can be. And Martin, with his language and learning difficulties, showed me how to do that, just by being absorbed and interested in everything he was doing. As brothers sometimes it was a little bit annoying that it wasn’t at the same speed, but he was always in the moment, he lived his life in the moment and his time scale was different. We often judge things as ‘life will be good when… lockdown’s over or when I get the new job, when I move house, when I go on holiday, get the new outfit…’ Well, what’s wrong with now? Now’s the moment. Everything’s got a time limit hasn’t it? We think everything’s going to carry on forever, like this lovely warm hot sunny day. Tomorrow we will need a jumper on!”

Q. What do you love about living here? “I moved into this house 30 years ago this Christmas and my son Billy, who’s grown up here, and was born here, is a gardener in the neighbourhood; he speaks with a Berkshire burr. The thing I love about it is the people; it’s great for families. It’s a lovely place to live. I’m passionate about my cycling and there’s some great cycle routes, either out southwards to Windsor or north into the Chilterns. I’ve got good friends here, I play five-a-side football, tennis. There’s good pubs and restaurants. I ring the bells at Holy Trinity church; I like the involvement. The fact I’ve put down roots, haha! This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere and it’s got something special about it. Then seeing the way Billy has taken to being a gardener. He knows the Latin names, the nicknames and the proper names of every plant in the garden as well as every football team in the country. I like the fact that when I’m out and about people say ‘hello Timmy!’”

Q. And Oxford United? “I love Oxford I’ve been a passionate fan of them since the 1990s when I worked at Radio Oxford when they soared. I watched how when the football went well, the town did well, there was a bounce in the air and people were inspired. I have two teams now – I have Oxford and also Maidenhead Utd who have the oldest football ground in the world. With both my teams, I like the ambition at the start of the season. Pre-season in these friendlies, new players are coming in you’re thinking ‘are they any good? Are they going to be better than the last lot? Are they going to set us alight and entertain us?’ Then, 45 minutes in, they’re 3-0 down and you’re like ‘arrrgh where are my hopes and dreams?!’ It’s about enjoying the ride. I don’t judge the season by whether they get promoted. No: it might be a great season if they stay up! If they stay in the midst of it all with great games or a great run. All those things are to be celebrated and you’re seeing players giving their best and trying their hardest. All these ups & downs are to be celebrated.”

Q. What are your favourite songs? “Anything by the Beatles. I often have Band On The Run by Paul McCartney & Wings playing loudly in the house, and The Stranger by Billy Joel. Lovely haunting melodies in there. And The Bluebells’ Young At Heart. Pop music is your personal diary isn’t it?”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “My mum playing the piano. Pop music was always really important, too. Listening to Alan Freeman on Pick Of The Charts each week. The charts mattered – whether they went up or down. How they did in the league. We used to love that. When I was at boarding school my brother used to send me lists of the charts and what he thought they should be. We had a little pop group, me and my brothers. Paul couldn’t remember the words, Martin couldn’t say the words so I made them up. We were called the Kettleholders. Singing and pretending to be pop stars!”

Q. Which artists inspire you? “I really like the impressionists – I like Dutch 17th century artists like Vermeer and modern artists like David Hockney who rejoices in painting the seasons.”

Q. Do you have any favourite local galleries? “Nova in Marlow, Lemongrove in Henley and Whitewall galleries have all supported my art. I like going to visit some of the weird and wonderful museums we have in the Thames Valley – the chair museum in Wycombe! Wow! Bizarre! Reading Museum in the old town hall which has a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. I like the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. I like the Bodgers exhibit in the Turvill Church, in the vestry. The Bodgers lived and worked making chair spindles in the 19th century. I like the Heritage Centre in Maidenhead. And if you want to see more of my art look at Mallettspallette.co.uk

Q. Who would be your dream party guests? “Eleanor of Aquitaine, an impressive woman in a man’s world. Tom Hanks, particularly because I love his character’s line in Castaway; ‘all we have to do is keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise & you never know what the tide will bring in’. I’d have Gareth Southgate. Also, I’ve been watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix and Michael Douglas seems like good value. And my mate Michaela Strachan who makes me laugh.”

Q. Do you get any weird fan mail or attention? “Fan mail is interesting because I get it just as regularly now as in the Wacaday days. It doesn’t surprise me when a message comes via social media or actual letters. Everyone has their memory of Wacaday, like you Liz, when you said you and your sister used to watch it. I was in the British Museum and someone shouted ‘Tony! You’re Tony Robinson, wow!’ I reminded him of Baldrick, obviously. Some people want a pinky-punky mallet, so I brought out a 30th anniversary edition which people can buy.”

Q.  If you had a magic wand, as well as your mallet, what would you wish for the world? “I feel as though climate change is fixable, all we have to do is put our minds to it. I’ve done this in a small way in my own house. If I could have a domestic wind turbine on the roof, I would do. I’d find a way to make where I live work harder. I reckon it’s doable in the bigger picture. I’m optimistic.”

Q. You’ve done so much in your varied career! Anything in the pipeline? “These are the golden years to make the most of what you’ve got and make it happen. One of the things I was surprised about, researching the Camino, was how much connection there was with the Thames Valley. Santiago de Compostela is where you go to see the tomb of St James the Apostle, where all of him is buried except for his left hand, which is in Marlow, at St Peter’s. Then when I was planning my trip, I contacted my MP who said I want to hear more about this, so the PM came to my house to hear about the camino. Then there’s the Bishop of Oxford who didn’t know about any of it. All these little connections putting people together. Your story is part of the thousands of ‘Camino’ journeys that happen every year. There’s probably another adventure to do on my bike. And there’s another big idea which I’m trying to persuade Mrs Mallett about, so I don’t feel it’s fair to tell you first, Liz, until she’s on board! At the moment she’s like; ‘you’re going to do what?!’  I want to do more cycling and painting – that suits me. Meeting people, hearing their stories, sharing some tales would be a good thing to do. Always take that inspiration of brother Martin, with the smile on his face and a warm embrace.”

Please visit Timmymallett.co.uk & mallettspallette.co.uk

Tell us your local news here

Star Q&A: Ed Byrne

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls talks about life, laughs & lockdown saviours with comedian & dad Ed Byrne, 49, ahead of his live shows in September, including Oxford, Newbury, High Wycombe, Farnham, Camberley & Dorking

Q. Hello! Which comedians did you like when you were young? “I always liked Dave Allen. My brother had a 12-inch album The Pick of Billy Connollly which I remember laughing at with my Ma & Da. And then repeating the jokes (that I didn’t really f***** get but were still funny), to other kids who also didn’t get it, in a bad Glaswegian accent.”

Q. Have you had to rewrite material for your new show If I’m Being Honest? “I’ve done a few outdoor & drive-in shows, so I’ve been able to tinker as I go, see what works and what doesn’t. Now I am making jokes about the fact that jokes in the show are a couple of years old which really changes the joke. It demonstrates that life has been in suspended animation for two years.”

Q. What were your lockdown saviours? “I had visions of having a nice break, then taking myself off to the Scottish Highlands when the kids went back to school…but no! I did manage to film a show interviewing celebrities while hill walking but people love to accuse you of breaking the rules. At home we did a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Pokemon battles. We divided and conquered in this house, and I was banished to the garden. I dug a vegetable patch, made raised beds, I laid a patio… all in the first flush of lockdown, obviously, before my get up and go got up and went. I taught myself via YouTube. When it comes to practical stuff it’s better to watch someone who’s only slightly more qualified than you cackhandedly find their own way through it first.”

Q. Is it true you shook hands with David Bowie? “It was more than that! I was in Adelaide and was invited on to an evening TV chat show. It was live, and as I was doing my bit, Bowie and his band gathered opposite me next to the cameras and audience. Then he did his interview & he was easily as funny as I was. We had a chat and, despite the enormous disparity in our standing, he spoke to me like we were contemporaries, like equals, which was very sweet, if mad! The following day Steven K Amos did the same TV show and he got to meet… The Wiggles. So I won that one.”

Q. What’s your most memorable heckle? “To this day the most devastating heckle I ever had was in Sydney when woman just stood up and shouted [adopts drunken Aussie accent] BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! That really was all she was hearing.”

Q. You’re a humanist, right? “Yes. Humanists help people organise things differently. A lot of the big things in life; how we mark marriage, babies, death, used to be controlled by religion but now there’s choice. You can be altruistic and an atheist.”

Q. Any up-and-coming comedians worth a shout-out? “When work was scarce, I watched a lot of short videos. I do think it’s fitting that I’m made to feel old by the app TikTok, which sounds like someone pointing at their watch counting my career down. I have enjoyed Alistair Green, Tom Little and Naomi Cooper who are all very funny.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be? “Wow; big question! That it be disease free. And if we can’t go for disease-free, can we just make the diseases we have slightly less contagious?”

For Ed’s show details & to book, visit edbyrne.com

Tell us your local news here

Star Q&A: Andre Rieu

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls asks international classical music champion & dad Andre Rieu, 71, about life, love & music ahead of Together Again which comes to cinemas on 28th & 29th August.

Q. Your concerts look so joyful! How do you create that magic? “Wherever we play in the world, people start to dance when they hear The Blue Danube. Magicians use their wands, I have my violin and my bow. But there is also the joy I feel when I play my music. It’s real, and luckily, my fellow orchestra members share that joy and passion. And then there is this unmistakable interaction with my audience: we face them and they can see our faces too. You know, classical music has been composed for all of us – not only for the elite like some people tend to think. Johann Strauss, Mozart; they were pop stars in their own times. Music is my oxygen!”

Q. How have you coped over the last 16 months? “When a concert was over and we were travelling to our hotel, I used to watch baking tutorials on YouTube. So that’s what I’ve been doing: making cakes, pies and all kind of pastries for the street, haha! One of the most famous cake bakers in the Netherlands (Cees Holtkamp) gave me a masterclass on my birthday, that was a nice surprise! Nevertheless, I missed contact with my audience and my big family; that’s the nickname for all my fellow orchestra members. My saviours? My wife, our sons with their wives and our five gorgeous grandchildren. I am looking forward to touring and returning to the UK in 2022.”

Q. How did your father shape your path in life? “I was raised in a classical family. My father was a symphony orchestra conductor, all my brothers and sisters play one or more instruments, chosen by our mother. She thought the violin would suit me and she was right! No other instrument translates my inner feelings so well. My first violin teacher was an 18-year-old blonde girl with whom I instantly fell in love (I was five years old, haha!).”

Q. What’s the key to a happy marriage like yours with Marjorie? “The key to our blissful happiness is the 100% mutual trust, but also sharing the same sense of humour and giving the freedom the other needs. We’ve been married 47 years, we work together but we’re also still each other’s lovers. Most people forget but it’s important to enjoy life and laugh. In the Netherlands we have a saying: ‘Not having laughed one day is not having lived that same day’.”

Q. What surprising lessons have fatherhood, and being a grandpa, taught you? “Not a single day is the same as another. Try to enjoy every moment because your (grand) children grow quicker than you think. Besides that: freedom is the secret… they’ll come to you as a father or grandfather when they’ll need you. Last thing: I love to spoil my grandchildren once in a while…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests? “Walt Disney who said: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’ Next to him, the one and only true King of the Waltz: Johann Strauss. Albert Einstein because of his knowledge about the universe: Jules Verne and Columbus.”

Q. What wish would you grant the world? “World peace. Not to fight for, let’s say, one year. Try to make music… more fun than weapons!”

For tickets please visit andreincinemas.com

Tell us your local news here

Star Q&A: Paul Stellar

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Singer & dad Paul Weller, 63, opens up about his new album Fat Pop (Volume I), collaborations and a hopeful return to live music.

Q. Congratulations on the album! How was it born? “Most things become more apparent when you’re working on a record, so I don’t think I had a masterplan, I just wanted to make a record as I was facing a whole year or more of not doing anything, as all the live stuff had been cancelled.”

Q. You recorded in each of your homes, coming together at Black Barn studio in Surrey didn’t you? “In the first bit of lockdown, I was recording my vocal and a guitar or piano to a click track, then I’d send that to the band members… so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing until we could all get together. It was very weird, and I wouldn’t say completely enjoyable as little things kept coming back that we could have easily fixed if we were all together, but it enabled us to stay working. Getting together in person though, was special. I’d say like the first day of school, but I hated school, so it was more like the last day, a real f***ing joy.”

Q. With your huge back catalogue you like to keep it fresh don’t you? “I’m always trying to keep my own interest and not repeat myself, which when you’ve been recording music as long as I have, can be difficult. The older I get, the less cautious I am about trying things. There was a similar ethos in The Style Council, I just don’t think I had the chops to bring it off successfully at times. If I believe in something though, I want people to hear it.”

Q. What was it like working with your star collaborators Andy Fairweather Low and your daughter Leah? “It was so easy and natural with Leah. We were sitting around the night before and I was playing this song on piano. She’s doing an album just now that Steve Cradock is producing. Even without doing the proud dad thing, I can see she’s coming up with really good songs. Andy Fairweather Low? Well, it was a joy to have him on board. We sang together a couple of years ago on a charity thing round my way in Guildford and our voices went really well together, so we’ve often said we should do something together.”

Q. What’s on the horizon? “My only ambition is to have more of what I’m having now; life, music, family, children and all that. I don’t have long-term plans because, as we’ve discovered in the last year, there ain’t no plan. As long as I get a bit more of this, I’m a happy man.”

For the latest news on Paul’s tour dates and releases, visit paulweller.com

Tell us your local news here

Star Q&A: Danny Goffey

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls chats to musician & dad of four Danny Goffey, 47, who will star with his Supergrass bandmates at Englefield House in Theale as part of a series of gigs which have been postponed to July 2022…

Q. Hello Danny. It’s great that live music is back – do you enjoy playing the hits, getting the bangers out..? “I love getting my bangers out! Our songs are interesting and intricate enough that when you’re playing them, you’re concentrating and getting really into them. We did a tour before Covid, finished with a couple of gigs at Ally Pally and it felt… all right actually! Now playing live has a new meaning. Mind you, we’re doing a year of touring – maybe ask me at the end of that!”

Q. Do you know Englefield House? “I don’t. I moved to Oxford when I was 10 or 11. I went to school in Maidenhead and grew up around Cookham. It was a lovely childhood, mucking about in the woods, on the river, mad stuff.”

Q. Can you tell us about Oxford in the 1990s? “I remember loads and loads of pubs, characters. We had such a good laugh up and down the Cowley Road and in Jericho, at the Tavern, Freud’s and Raoul’s. Down Little Clarendon Street there was a place called Barcelona; I think I got thrown out for wearing pyjamas and acting really stupid. It was so free and easy compared to today.”

Q. Do you wish you kept a diary of those early days? “I suppose the beauty of mad off-the-wall moments is that you don’t remember them, which is sometimes the best way, haha! Some of those times were hectic and insane so it’s great not to be able to remember them. I’ve been writing my book to go with my new record so I’ve been reflecting on old times. I wish I’d written a diary from ages 16 to 20; how the band started, ins and outs. I’d recommend anyone starting something they think’s gonna be great to document it… Which everyone does these days anyway.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Going through my dad’s rack of 45s, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Rolf Harris. Weird comedy records. The first band I got into were Dexys Midnight Runners; that was the first single I bought. I am crap with music nowadays; I haven’t got a record player or good stereo at the moment. I don’t listen to music much, it’s more Radio 4.”

Q. Have you felt insular during lockdown? “I’ve kept busy, with my album and book. It’s about an ageing semi-retired rock star and how he gets bullied by his family! I’ve spent a lot of time at a beach house, trying to fit decking. But I know it’s been really tough for a lot of people so I’m lucky.”

Q. What’s on your rider? “Me and Gaz tend to have a few vodka and Red Bulls before going on stage; it gives you a bit of an edge, lets you go a bit bonkers for a couple of hours. Wine and beers. A good coffee machine. We’re quite easygoing.”

Q. Who is your dream collaboration? “Ahhh, it’s endless. I’d loved to have worked on songs with Ian Dury. David Bowie. Years ago I wangled a way to play drums with Paul McCartney on bass for a Christmas album. That’ll do me.”

Q. Do you still get compared to McCartney? “Not as much as when I was younger. I look really mental at the moment with my long, wild hair.”
• To book your tickets visit heritagelive.net

Star Q&A: James Arthur

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls asks singer James Arthur, about music, mental health and more. His new single September is out on 11th June, via Columbia Records, taken from his as-yet untitled album out in autumn

Hello James – thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts with our readers.

 

Q. Congratulations on the new album, and the single out in June. You must be really proud of these? “Honestly, I am so proud of this whole album. I made the whole thing at home during lockdown, and I never could have imagined the difference working in a space I felt comfortable in could have led to me being able to produce the best work I believe I’ve ever made.”

Q. As someone who suffers anxiety myself, and a huge fan of CBT thank you for being so honest about it. How are you feeling now? “I take it day by day, I’ve found really focusing on staying present is the most important thing for me, I can’t control the past or the future, and trying to do so only breeds anxiety, so I focus on being in the present moment and just being grateful for that. What advice would you have for anyone going through a dark time? Speak to someone, you will be so surprised at the support you will receive if you just let people in, all it takes is a text to someone saying ‘I’m really not feeling ok’ which might sound like a scary thing to do, but by doing that, you are no longer alone. There is also an amazing out-of-hours mental health helpline by the charity SANE (sane.org.uk) if you don’t feel like you can speak to someone you know.”

Q. What is your go-to album or song to lift your spirits & make you feel good? “Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn is my jam.”

Q. What is your first memory of music? “My early childhood memories of music are of rock vinyls playing at my dad’s (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC etc) – also Prince, Michael Jackson and soul music on repeat at my mum’s.”

Q. How did you feel about fame when you were young? And how do you feel about fame now? “I don’t think I ever really thought about fame when I was younger – the greats that I looked up to, I didn’t necessarily see them as famous, I was just so inspired by their talent. I also think the concept of fame was very different when I was younger – people that were ‘famous’ were very untouchable, you knew nothing of them apart from their art, and fast disposable fame didn’t really exist, whereas now, with social media, people really have an massive amount of access to a person’s life and personality. I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t think of myself as famous which probably helps me, and I’m so grateful to have people who love my music enough that would consider themselves a ‘fan’ of me, but if I could do my job without being famous, I’d definitely take that option!”

Q. How do you take care of your fantas1c voice? Anything you don’t eat or drink, or exercises etc? “I learnt very quickly after back to back tours that if I want to sing the way I want to sing every night I have to look after my voice, so I do an hour’s warm-up before a show and then a cool down after the show too. Even with that, if I don’t have days of complete voice rest built into the tour my voice completely cuts out for a few days, and it’s the worst feeling in the world as there’s nothing I can do to make it come back but wait and rest. It’s one of the most frustrating things about touring for me, so it’s a constant balancing act.”

Q. You have said you miss touring – having had some rest time, are you ready to go & perform live now? “I cannot wait! I’ve got some festivals lined up this summer and I’m really hoping they go ahead.”

Q. Is there an upcoming /lesser-known artist out there who you want to give a shout-out to & urge us all to listen to their music? “Shotty Horroh – I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this artist for many years and I will continue to do so. He’s the best MC.”

Q. Rule of six time: who would be your dream party guests to hang out or have dinner/picnic with, living or dead, real or fictional? “Kurt Cobain, Jay Z, Elvis, Cillian Murphy, Ed Norton, William Wallace.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “My two favourite books are Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

Q. What were your favourite saviours of lockdown: i.e. things that made lockdown life better? “FIFA was massive for me during lockdown – I put my gamer tag on Twitter and my requests went crazy. From that I managed to find five guys who have become my really good friends. We spent the first lockdown speaking for hours and hours while playing FIFA every night. I’ve never even met any of them, but I speak to them nearly every day, and having that escapism was massive for me during lockdown.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I’d wish that people would be kinder to each other. I don’t even think that’s that big an ask.”

Q. Is there anything on your horizon or future ambitions you can tell us about? “There’s some exciting acting roles coming up for me, but I might get sacked if I talk about it so you’ll have to ask me again next time!”

Take five….

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Top tips for creating your home gym. We’ve teamed up with Morgan Beilby of local design and fit-out specialists Velvaere Studios to help you create the perfect home/work balance.

1) Make sure your space will function as a home gym

Avoid the mistake of a “room full of equipment” rather than a home gym. Carefully design your gym so that it allows for an effective work- out.

Many aspects can be overlooked but it’s the attention to detail that enables the user to experience the full benefits of a home gym.

For example; is your gym ‘zoned’ correctly, with separation between the strength and cardio area?
Is your gym flooring located in the right place?

Is there enough space behind your cardio equipment and are sockets in the right place to avoid trailing leads?
Are your mirrors located in the best position?
Is your bench and squat rack directly under any lights that are affecting your vision?

Our design service at Velvaere Studios enables clients to visualise their space, focusing on the details to make it perfect in every way.

Our design team use the latest design tools to assist our clients from initial concept to the equipment layout and final design finishes.

2) Does the space inspire you?

Once the fundamentals of design are established to enable your home gym to function properly, we can then work with you to personalise the space. We believe that a home gym should be designed to promote wellbeing and a sense of inspiration. The choice of wall and floor finishes, the mood created by the lighting and the atmosphere from air quality to fragrance will all contribute to the energy within the room.

3) Does the equipment match your fitness and lifestyle needs?

It is essential that the equipment you choose is the equipment you will use.
If your goal is to build muscle then you would want to focus on investing in strength equipment such as dumbbells and other free weights rather than cardio pieces such as a treadmill. You might like the idea of a treadmill, but you may still want to go for runs outside with your running partner so the equipment focus should be on the equipment you will most use.

We will help you to focus on selecting the equipment for your home gym which best suits your workout and lifestyle needs.

At Velvaere we provide a whole range of health and fitness equipment, to meet the needs of all training requirements. We create a solution for every space, ranging from a single set of dumbbells through to a full home gym set up.

We partner with world leading equipment manufacturers and will produce proposals to fit your budget.

4) Find the right space

Do you have a spare room or suitable space that can be repurposed? Many people convert their garages, spare rooms, basements and lofts etc. and it may be possible to make a room flexible in its use. It is important though to design it first before you go ahead and assume that it is suitable.

It may be possible to extend your home or a very popular option is to consider using a garden building. Again, you can re-purpose an existing building but often a better solution is a new purpose designed garden building. Companies such as our partners, Green Retreats, (https://www.greenretreats.co.uk/upgrades-to-the-bucks-showroom/ ) provide an efficient and effective way to expand your home to include a home gym where the building structure and amenities such as windows, doors and heating are all included in the price. Velvaere Studios then provide the interior fit out of the garden rooms with fitness equipment and specialist finishes that will transform your space into a fully fitted and perfectly functioning garden room gym specialist finishes.

5) Quality is key

Your home gym should be built to last. It’s a place to go to improve and feel better so both the interior fit out and the fitness equipment inside should reflect this. A home gym is an investment in yours and your family’s health, happiness and wellbeing. Your home gym needs to be a place that inspires you and the quality of equipment and finishes will all contribute. A quality home gym is much more than about how it looks, it’s about how it makes you feel.

At Velvaere Studios we work with world leading manufacturers such as Technogym and Life Fitness and our design and fit- out team has many years of experience of working on high quality projects .

The Velvaere one- stop service home gym fit-out service makes it easy and stress free for you.

We completely take it off your hands and create stunning home gyms that are designed and fitted out to not only function properly but to look and feel great so that you can too !

We would love to hear from you and to see how we can help to create your ideal home gym.

Visit www.velvaerefit.com, follow @velvaerestudios on Instagram, email or call 07580 155596

Star Q&A: Ed Stafford

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls chats to survival expert, dad & TV star Ed Stafford, 45, about life, lockdown & the summer family wilderness camps he has helped devise in the South East.

Q. Hello Ed! As an adventurer, has being in lockdown been especially hard for you? “Actually I was in a good position to face lockdown. I’m used to being dropped into the middle of nowhere and left to fend for myself, and good with a curveball! Don’t get me wrong: I love travelling and I think everyone is chomping at the bit to travel. But it’s been OK. Working on different stuff has been fun. As you can see, I’m in my man cave!”

Q. How beneficial is it to get children outdoors? “Getting outdoors is an easy hack to cut through the crap of lockdown. It helps mental health for adults and children. When Ran my little boy is outside he’s his best self; more engaged, polite, more eye contact. If you take screens away, especially Netflix which is that bingewatch mentality, it’s like getting an addict off truly nasty stuff. Having said that, we’re not monks about screens. We’re all busy. Laura & I have loved a bit of science fiction escapism in the evening!”

Q. Your camps sound fun – how tough are they? “There are different levels. For some camping is outside their comfort zone so listening to the sound of the deer, the owls hooting at night, will be quite novel, quite spooky. But then those with more outdoor experience can go a bit more advanced. Children on the five-day camp can learn to blow a fire into life with their hands… I used to think that stuff was geeky but it’s cool. We might parnass a fish.”

Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? “I’ve eaten an electric eel, a tapir, the tail of a woolly monkey. When we were in the Amazon I was aware I couldn’t come along with my western attitudes and tell them what to kill or what not to kill. The jungle was their larder. On the logging camps, you might come across a baby monkey tied to a post & its mother boiling in the pot.”

Q. Are the Scouting movement & the Army a good place to nurture a love of the outdoors? “I love the Scouts. I learned to navigate, pack a bag, sleep out thanks to the Scouts. Camp Wilderness is different because you can be there with your parents. I remember being miserable at Sandhurst, in the wet and cold, in the woods. If you want to take the joy out of the outdoors, join the military! The flip side is the Army offers the most intense training. I think it costs £80k to put an officer through training and that’s leadership, management outdoor skills. It’s world-leading.”

Q. What’s on your bucket list? “I’m out of the early-20s need to conquer things. I’m filming a series of First Man Out in Kenya and a C4 show 60 Days with the Gypsies. I don’t want to sound boring but with a young family I love to come home after a trip. No ego-driven expeditions any more!”

Q. Who are your dream dinner party guests? “Dinner parties are my worst nightmare, so can I choose a camp meal round a fire? As well as the people I love, I admire sportspeople. So, Martin Johnson, Dean Richards & Rory Underwood.”

Camp Wilderness for children & families take place over summer in four locations. Please call 03332 004 469 or visit campwilderness.co.uk

Shakespeare & St George’s Day

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

“Cry God for Harry, England and St George..!” Pit your wits against our Which William quiz in honour of Shakespeare & St George’s Day

We’re wishing you a happy St George’s Day & happy birthday to William Shakespeare with a Bard quiz from Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) who still have tickets for their live-streamed performance of Henry V this weekend.

Book in for HENRY V: live online, written by William Shakespeare & adapted & directed by Caroline Devlin from today until Sunday at various times. The cast brings together a collection of the company’s best-known actors including Paula James, Chris Porter, Emily Tucker, GCS founder Matt Pinches and Gavin Fowler. Matt tells us: “We are thrilled to have such a fabulous cast for this special retelling of Henry V, and Caroline’s inspiring 2014 production. This production, with the play’s own homage to theatre, will be a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of our industry, as well as a celebration of all that we love about the theatrical experience. The play also carries a unique message of hope that the impossible is possible, a sentiment that has never felt more poignant than in our recent times.”

Tickets are £20 – book at www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/Henry-5-online

As they celebrate their 15th birthday, the Guildford Shakespeare Company also kick off their return to the stage with the irresistible comedy She Stoops To Conquer, in the gardens of Guildford Castle, 17th June to 3rd July.

We have teamed up with GSC founder Matt to offer you the following Which William? quiz to test your knowledge against!

Which William?

Willy Wonka, Will.I.Am or William Shakespeare..? You might find it harder than you expected to establish which famous William said the following lines…

1 Every man dies, but not every man truly lives

2 There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so

3 The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together

4 When our memories outweigh our dreams, we’ve grown old

5 Better three hours too soon than a minute late.

6 Only the good die young

7 Can you practice what you preach
Or would you turn the other cheek

8 Love sought, is good; but given unsought, is better

9 We know what we are, but know not what we may be

10 There’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden

#BlossomWatch

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Celebrate the UK’s first ever #BlossomWatch day in Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire

The National Trust is urging people to use the longer, warmer days of spring and come together on social media to share their pictures as part of the charity’s first ever nationwide #BlossomWatch Day, Saturday, 24th April.

In Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire, some of the best places to enjoy blossom include Hughenden, Cliveden, Stowe, Greys Court and Basildon Park.

As restrictions ease and loved ones can finally start to meet outside, the conservation charity is urging people to use the easing of restrictions to share in one of nature’s most magnificent natural spectacles.

People are being asked to share pictures of blossom on social media on April 24th using the #BlossomWatch. And by tagging their location, an interactive digital map (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom-watch) will chart the progress of blossom across the country.

The Trust’s Garden’s and Parks Consultant for London and the South East, Emma McNamara, says: “Blossom season is advancing apace, but we’ve had some frost damage recently from the low overnight temperatures. Magnolia and camellia blossom have been affected by this, burning the flowers at Greys Court and Basildon Park, which means they drop quickly. This highlights the fleeting nature and beauty of blossom. However, fruit trees such as apple, pear and cherry will be blooming in late April and early May in the orchards at Hughenden and Cliveden, buzzing with insect life pollinating for fruits later in the year.”

Blossomwatch is also a chance to indulge in the Japanese art of hanami whcih literally means “viewing blossoms”. Long ago, around the 7th century, when the Japanese talked about “hana” they were referring mainly to plum blossoms. But years later, “hana” has come to mean cherry blossoms. And now Hanami means “going out to enjoy cherry blossoms.” It is one of the most featured images in Japanese art and literature.

Junko Shimizu, Founder of the Amenity 2000 Association, says: “Cherry blossoms are the sign of spring. They tell us cold winter is gone, to take off heavy coats. People are eager to get this sign. This year cherry blossoms are slower to bloom than usual.”

For further information, inspiration and to donate towards the charity’s tree planting ambitions visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom-watch