HAVE you been to the Norman Leddy Memorial Gardens by the Beck Theatre (or the Botanical Gardens as we've always called it) lately? It's worth a look, whether you're there for a show at the Beck or you're just passing through.
The gardens have won a well-deserved gold award for best London small park in the London in Bloom competition this month and it's great we have this on our doorsteps in Hillingdon.
OK, so it's not quite Kew Gardens but it is free and a good place to take the kids. I was also amazed to spot quite an unusual tree in Fassnidge Park in Uxbridge last week. I'd noticed some supports had gone up to protect an enormous tree down by the skate park and was told that it's a very unusual cork tree - the only one in Hillingdon and believed to be the only one in this part of London. Even Kew Gardens doesn't have a cork tree.
I don't know what it is about cork but it always seems to make wine taste better. I know this is totally psychosomatic and that these new fangled plastic corks (or, heaven forbid, a screw cap) are supposed to make no difference to the quality of the wine, but you just don't get that satisfying 'plop' sound when you open anything other than a real cork, do you?
We are planning to go on a booze run to France soon - we've found a heavily discounted cross channel crossing and it's so much cheaper to buy alcohol over there. I've decided to attempt to do my weekly shop in France rather than in the UK, subject to the usual customs rules of course.
I've not bought any wine for months in preparation for our trip and I have instead been using up the dodgy wines that have been languishing in the kitchen cupboard for a few years.
Two bottles were so awful they were delegated to cooking wine on opening. I shall be stocking up in France and will be the saddo in the French hypermarket inspecting my ¤3 bottles of wine for corks and not plastic stoppers.
I'll also be saving a few pennies when I sign Alex up for the great value kids sports scheme Hillingdon Council are running that starts tomorrow (September 16).
A whole host of exciting activities are on offer for children and young people aged five to 19, which cost only £1 a session and run for 10 weeks all over the borough.
Alex is still trying to decide what to do because the choice is so large - trampolining, cricket, fencing, bhangra, disability multi-sport, kayaking, boxing, archery and lots more. Find more details at www.hillingdon.gov.uk.
Thanks to everyone who sent me ideas for removing Alex's temporary air-brushed tattoo that I wrote about in last week's column. Ideas emailed over ranged from white spirit, baby wipes, nail varnish remover and my personal favourite - cut his arm off. I'm pleased to report that using a mixture of the above suggestions the said tattoo now resembles a nasty bruise rather than a skull and crossbones.
Finally, we've added up the total amount raised for charity at last week's Party in the Park event as promised and I'm delighted to announce we made almost £6,000 for various local charities, including the RSPCA Hillingdon, Hillingdon Autistic Care and Support, Hillingdon Women's Centre and 2nd West Drayton Scouts.
It's amazing that we've raised more than £21,000 in just four years since we started, having a handful of fundraising stands at Party in the Park - an event that isn't really about raising money! It's really just a chance for local businesses and groups to give back to families in Hillingdon and the charities benefit on the back of that.