This month’s GRAPEVINE is all about unusual things to do in London.   It’s for those of you who’ve done the standard sights and are looking for something a bit different as a cultural backdrop to London’s amazing cheap shopping.

DANA CENTRE next to the Science Museum, where there are always interesting talks on a wide range of subjects.   January is no exception.    Arrive early to enjoy the café which serves a variety of delicious food and is licensed.  Open to those over 18 years.  Most events are free.  Here are some of them.    TUBE:  South Kensington. 

BRAIN MAN on 21 January 18.30-20.30, Daniel Tammet will be sharing his insights into life.   Well-known for his ability to perform incredible numerical and linguistic feats, he’ll explain how we all have amazing mental abilities waiting to be unlocked.   If only!    . 

FUTURE FOODS  Join the genetically modified food debate on 22 January 19.00-20.30 when supporters of GM foods will claim we need them to help feed the developing world.  Are they just trying to get us to accept the idea of GM?   

TWO CULTURES  On 23 January 9.30am-17.00 leading scholars from art, science, philosophy and history discuss whether contemporary culture is as divided as C P Snow warned in 1959.   

BRITAIN’S EINSTEIN  Paul Dirac was the greatest British theoretical physicist since Newton.    Graham Farmelo, author of a new biography, talks about the impact this strange genius on modern physics.    He traces the origins of string theory, antimatter and quantum theory.   On until 27 January 19.00-20.45 at the Dana Centre.    http://www.danacentre.org.uk/events/2009/01/27/458

DANA GOES TO THE SCIENCE MUSEUM as it opens its doors for an adults only late night extravaganza.   They invite us to come and play in their newest galleries and have a drink on 28 January, 18.45-22.00.   Sound like fun and no pre-booking needed.  



At The National Portrait Gallery is Carol Ann Duffy by Sue Adler, in Room 39 until 31 January.    

A long-time favourite of mine, Duffy’s poetry collections include Standing Female Nude [1985], winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award and Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize. Duffy’s work is concerned with gender, contemporary culture and social equality.

Sue Adler has worked in the field of arts and documentary photography for over 25 years. Her recent work has included photographing the making of films, including Moulin Rouge (2001).

She has twice been awarded British Arts Photographer of the Year.


‘It’s like going through a heavenly car wash’, is how one guest described Porchester Spa.  

If you fancy a Turkish bath in an Art Deco building, look no further.  Three Turkish hot rooms, two Russian steam rooms, a cold plunge pool, a Jacuzzi, sauna, swimming pool and relaxation area. 

This old-fashioned spa is good fun and perfect for relaxing, either on your own or with friends.  It costs £21.00 for a 3 hour session – a bargain by London spa standards.   Massage extra.  10.00-22.00 daily.   Ladies only: Tue, Thu & Fri. Men only: Mon, Wed & Sat.   Couples after 4pm on Sundays. It may not be typically British but it’s a great way to keep warm in January.  TUBE:  Royal Oak, 3 minutes walk.  Queensway, 7 minutes walk.



Here’s my top tip if you’re visiting London soon.  Check out this voucher site before you leave home as many London cafes and restaurants are offering 2 meals for the price of one.  

Just print a copy and bring it with you.

Shops all over London, even the very grand ones, such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are offering discounts if you take along a voucher.   Some offer reductions of 70%.   

With our poor old pound looking very sorry for itself, this is a great time to visit.  


Here’s a relaxing home in fashionable Chiswick, west London, owned by a couple, both Londoners, who between them speak Mandarin, Cantonese and French.   They have a triple, a double and a twin room all with their own bathrooms . 

Their home offers Nikken ‘Wellness Rooms’ with ozone-free air filtration systems, healthy PiMag drinking water and beds designed around the physiology of sleep.   Even insomniacs have been know to have a good sleep here.     

A vegetarian or vegan breakfast is served in the family kitchen and includes home-made organic muesli, home-made bread, tea, coffee, eggs, cheese, fruit and freshly made vegetable or fruit juice.  

There’s easy, fast access to central London and to Heathrow Airport.  

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