Friday Favourites ….. VENUES and VIEWS!

I’ve worked in a plethora of venues over the years – from tired, damp church halls and remote corners of wet, muddy, windy fields in the middle of nowhere 542386_4174060235955_1769070261_nto plush function rooms of five-star deluxe hotels and conference suites in top executive corporate offices in the City – they all have their own individual charm!

IMG_2109My trusted kit has been dragged on trains, across car parks and fields; squeezed in and out of lifts and heaved up a myriad of staircases – and my poor back and shoulders have taken the brunt of it!

As the years go by, my back gets weaker and I get wiser; my kit gets gradually smaller and smaller but I know I can still do better!  One day I hope to start a trend in “monochrome facepainting parties” … just think “painty friends” ….  a Grimas cake white, a Wolfe black and white and a bag full of sponges, three brushes, some glitter, a mirror and I’d be all set!!!

Over the last few months I’ve started keeping a photographic diary of my painting locations!  For all the jobs I moan about, I get twice as many that are just idyllic and I find myself in settings that make me very grateful for the business I’m in.

Each photo, as always, tells a story!  So here’s a glimpse of my favourites to date.  As always, in no particular order!

The first was a set up on the edge of the River Thames in the grounds of a beautiful mansion.  The party itself was being held on a riverboat moored up beside the house and the interior of the boat itself even resembled something out of Surrey Life Magazine!    I was set up in the boathouse on the river bank overlooking this wonderful view! 

River Thames

It was just me, the booze table and an amazing buffet spread!   The PA who had organised the party had so much planned and the guests were in for a fantastic event.   Unfortunately, half way through the afternoon, the Heavens opened and the pelting rain set in for the rest of the day.  The band rushed all their equipment into the boathouse in a panic and I dragged my set up further and further into a corner!  Before I knew it, the band and I were squashed up together at one end and all the sodden party guests filled the rest of the space!  It turned out to be a rather intimate afternoon!

One of my favourite bookings was a weekly Sunday carvery at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Guildford, sadly now ended but hoping they’ll have me back one day soon.   Every Sunday I’d rock up at their glamorous foyer and wheel my kit through to their beautiful restaurant.  The staff were so welcoming and I always felt like part of their team.  My view at this job was very decadent –

Radisson Hotel

– a stunning restaurant, with a very grown up feel but one that welcomes children!  Not bad eh?

A great place to work, however, if I turned 90 degrees to my right the view that presented itself was positively torturous ….

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My mouth watered and my stomach positively growled through every minute of the 2 hour booking each week!  They spoiled me on a couple of occasions and plated up a delicious roast for me to enjoy after I finished!  Yum!   Their restaurant, the Scoff and Banter, still offers a great choice for breakfasts or brunches to three course business lunches, weekend roasts and indulgent afternoon teas.   Definitely worth a visit, even without the face painting!

Jubilee weekend in 2012 brought one of my wettest, windiest but memorable jobs to date!!  I found myself set up in a vast expanse of field, surrounded by acres of more fields, under a flimsy gazebo with no sides and then the rain came down!

I found two little helpers to cart my kit across the soggy grass …

Jubilee

… but as you can see the field was rather lacking in guests as they were still quaffing champagne and canapés at their street party 500 yards away!

So I twiddled my thumbs for half an hour and admired the view ….

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… eventually everyone started to ramble up the hill to the party area and I got ready with my red, white and blue!    Once again, as is the British weather’s want, the Heavens opened and the rain was lashing into the gazebo horizontally.  Fortunately, I had my wonderful assistant with me (my Mum!) and also some family members who were camping nearby who surrounded me with golf umbrellas and the show went on!!!  As you can imagine the paint didn’t last long once exposed to the elements and there were a few bedraggled Union Jack faces wandering around all afternoon!

My fourth favourite has to be one of my old haunts in my twenties, The Black Swan  in Ockham.  A fabulous pub in a stunning setting – I highly recommend it any time of the year, but especially on a warm summer’s afternoon.

Black Swan

Take your family for a walk in the beautiful Surrey Hills followed by a lazy, leisurely Sunday lunch in their cosy, welcoming restaurant or partaking in their mouth-watering barbecue in the idyllic beer garden.  I’ve already featured this pub in another blog so you can read more about it here.

And last but by no means least … the totally fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire!

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We are proud to be the preferred suppliers for this luxurious, glamorous hotel and have been working with them for the last couple of years.   Unlike many other elegant top class hotels in the UK, the Four Seasons welcomes families with young children with open arms.

Bank holiday weekends and special holidays are especially magical as they put on the Kids for All Seasons programme with an activity itinerary that fills a small brochure!  Parties, craft activities, pony riding, bike rides, treasure hunts, movies and of course face painting plus much more!   Rose Cottage, in the grounds of the Hotel, is a haven for small children; staffed by a wonderfully caring team, there are toys and games galore to keep the kids occupied whilst Mum and Dad enjoy a few hours peace indulging in treatments in the hotel’s opulent spa!   As I write, they have just been awarded the Real Critics Guide Award for ‘Real Outstanding Country Retreat’ 2013 and check out this fabulous review on Conde Nast Traveller!  Watch this space for an up-coming article specifically dedicated to this wonderful hotel.  And maybe one day I’ll find a weekend spare to actually book in and indulge with my own daughter!!!

So there you have it …. sure beats commuting to a stuffy office every day!

Where’s the best place you’ve ever worked?

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Easy Like Sunday … Afternoon!

I am blessed that my job takes me to some wonderful locations and the Black Swan in Ockham, Surrey is one of my favourites!

A pub that I frequented in my early 20s (back then it was affectionately known as “The Mucky Duck”) has changed beyond recognition since those dim and distant days.

Nestled in idyllic Surrey countryside, whilst being only minutes from the A3 and the M25, it is hugely popular with local walkers and cyclists but also attracts patrons from all over the country (and the world!).  When chatting with the parents of the children I’m painting I find that many use it as a central meeting point for family get-togethers and celebrations as it’s so easily accessible.

You can often find us set up just inside the entrance of the pub, especially on bank holiday weekends.  We have great fun keeping the children occupied whilst the parents enjoy the mouth-watering food on offer; and sometimes they brave my chair too and enjoy a good dousing of glitter themselves!

This Sunday we were invited to set up in the fabulous beer garden alongside several local food and wine producers at their popular Farmers’ Market.

Black Swan 22.9.13

It was great to see Mary again with her melt in the mouth cakes and biscuits and I had another opportunity to paint her beautiful daughter, Emma.

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The Black Swan’s premium wine supplier, La Caves de Pyrene  was on hand offering wine tasting.  I avoided the temptation to partake but couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle to take away and enjoy later!

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I did sneak a nibble of the cheese on offer from Turner’s Fine Food  followed by another purchase!   I can highly recommend the Baromar (similar to cheddar) and the Plumptondown Lynchetts Soft (similar to camembert).

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Whilst overcast, the weather was kind and the Garden Menu was just as popular as the main Lunch Menu served in the restaurant.   My mouth was watering all afternoon as the pungent, aromatic smells wafted over to me from the delicious barbecue!  The two Rivitas that I had wolfed down whilst I set up my kit earlier just didn’t cut the mustard!

After a quiet start, the children came at me thick and fast!!  Dalmatians seemed to be the order of the day for many but of course there were your guaranteed array of tigers and butterflies wandering around the children’s play area by the end of the afternoon!

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A couple of wolf requests sneaked in too … a little spooky … I am reliably informed that back in the early 80s the pub was used as the set for “The Slaughtered Lamb” bar scene in An American Werewolf in London!  Strangely I do get asked for more than the average amount of wolf paints when I’m working there!

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You can find more information about the Black Swan here.

Liam and his fantastic team will be delighted to welcome you.  (Please do book if you want to eat in the restaurant – I have never known it not to be packed!)