Sunday, February 16, 2014

Exercising the imagination

Everyone knows, deep down, that when they signed up to the gym on 1st January, it would be short lived. People slowly stop turning up to the once-packed gym classes, like fish slipping through the net of a rather ambitious haul. Instructors look dismayed that only two people turned up to their last class and contemplate flyering on the street to attract some more customers.

However, I have managed to buck this trend, a surprise that has not only shocked my friends but also the voice of temptation that usually wins. The key to my success: deluded flirting.

Hear me out.

I know the gym is not the place to pick people up. The old tattered leggings that hardly see the light of day, the slightly stale trainers, the flushed cheeks and sweat patches seeping from the most unlikely and slightly worrying places, do not scream 'seductive temptress'.

But that is why I specifically typed 'deluded'. I know that I feel, and probably look like, something not far off a beached whale, which, despite not having eaten and is near to death, is still one of the largest mammals around. In my head though, I build up a scenario of Olympic sprinter, plodding along on the infinity track of my treadmill. I feel great - the endorphins are pumping around my body - and to make things better, a swarm of good looking men and instructors are parading around the gym.

They flex their muscles, sweat their stuff, and try and outwit each other with heavy weights, flashing their strength and masculinity for all to see. Although this peacocking is most definitely a cave man urge of hunter gatherer competition, if you interpret it as a fight for your affection, the gym doesn't seem so bad.

In fact, after half an hour of exercise I feel pretty good. I walk home and my boyfriend greets me at the door.

'How was the gym?'

I reply with enthusiasm, remarking what a great session it was, with a picture in my head of gladiators fighting over their princess.

'Oh good. By the way, you've got toothpaste on your top lip.'

I guess it doesn't hurt to have an overactive imagination.

I signed up to PureGym at the beginning of the year. It was £15 to sign up and is then £25.99 a month, which includes free gym classes, such as tabata, 'legs, bums and tums', and spinning. Staff are friendly and helpful. Inductions cost extra but can be another useful way to keep up attendance! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lucky number seven?

Brixton market has been under much scrutiny from locals who have campaigned against the yuppy invasion, particularly with the opening of Champagne and Fromage, claiming that bubbly and cheese is bringing house prices up and ruining South London culture. Even the middle class food critics have claimed they would rather eat a prosciutto-covered sour dough pizza off a crate in the street, next to a crack head in order to ‘mix in’ with the locals.

Posh totty

When I wondered to the tapas and cocktail bar Seven, there didn’t seem to be any tension between the likes of the tweed-clad Rupert enjoying a margherita and the butcher wheeling a dead cow in a supermarket trolley to his stall. There is a feeling that you have stumbled across something special, as if on holiday walking through some market stalls to find a local delicacy to boast about back home.

Crumbly cocktails

Although the Seven website brags a clean, edgy, vintage sophistication, it feels more like a dirty school common room. I had a reserved wooden table with wonky chairs and a cheap plastic table cover. But all these odd nuances simply added to the enjoyment. 
Cocktails, at a mere £5, are served in receptacles similar to that found in an artist’s studio -  old tin cups and jam jars. The Blackberry Smash was sweet and refreshing, which I followed up with a warm kick from the brandy in the Mulled Cider, ordered from a very trendy piece of paper, which had no doubt been tea stained with organic leaves.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
(Image from Seven at Brixton)

Tapas tit bits

A sharing platter followed, with a bright display of olives, bread, cured meats, cheese, oil and vinegar. It was a succulent selection and for £14 the three of my friends seemed satisfied.

The verdict

For a chilled out natter, Seven is the place to go. However, you do have to be willing to talk to your company as the service took far too long.


The Oyster is your world

Traveling around London can rip holes in your wallet and see the pounds flooding out. Make sure that you are doing all you can to make the most of travel around London.

Paper versus Oyster
First off, the oyster card offers you a cheaper fair than buying a paper ticket. To touch in on the bus is £1.45 off peak compared to £2.40 with a ticket. Similarly, on the tube in zone 1 the off-peak fare is £2.20 compared to £4.70. Oyster automatically works out the cheapest fare for all your journeys in one day so you'll never pay more than the price of a day travelcard.

 Tap in, tap out

Season tickets
If you travel regularly or commute around London, a season ticket (weekly, monthly or annually) will usually provide the best deal. They allow unlimited travel in different zones of London. Renew your season ticket just before annual fare rises, so any price increases are postponed for a year.

However, if you don’t travel that regularly it might be best to try a month pay as you go, followed by a month with a pass to sniff out the cheapest deal for you.

Travel outside peak times
Peak hours are between 6.30 – 9.30am and 4 –7pm. Pay-as-you-go customers will be capped at the daily peak fare between 4.30 and 9.30am, and the daily off-peak fare after 9.30am until 4.30am the next day.

Alternative transport
Depending on how you like to present yourself in the office in the morning, think about cycling. If you have a Barclays bike docking station nearby, an annual pass of £90 might be the best option. Alternatively, have a look at the Cycle to Work scheme to see if your company might be interested in deducting a tax-free bike from your salary.

There is nothing like a brisk walk around London, but it all depends on how far you are willing to venture. Urban walking route planners are available online for the quickest path.

Concessions are available for people with disabilities, over 60s, war veterans, children, students, and people who are unemployed or on job seekers’ allowance. Remember that railcards can be synced with Oyster cards to provide a third off the price of all single off-peak journeys.

Check out the TFL website for more information and try out some different options to see what works for your commute.