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The Muddy Guide

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Chipping Norton Literary Festival, 18-21 April

lionel shriver

Oxfordshire is awash with literary festivals, and no doubt this one, in the lovely town of Chipping Norton, will affect its own peculiar charm too. Big name authors like Lionel Shriver (above) and Julian Fellowes rub shoulders with the likes of, um, Fern Britton – but actually that’s how it should be if these festivals are going to represent broad literary tastes.

There’s a small children’s programme which includes the fun-sounding ‘Hold the Front Page’ where kids can pretend to be newspaper editors (thus swearing, namedropping and firing people indiscriminately). Go for the morning to the fest and then retire for lunch somewhere suitably honey-stoned.

Boden clearance sale, Waddesdon, Tues 23-Wed 24 April

boden radiator shot
The time has come to buy up Pacific-Island themed beach shorts, girly cardis and appliqued children’s t-shirts. Yes indeedy, the Boden clearance sale jollies up to Waddesdon Plant Centre next Tuesday and Wednesday. Be there or be significantly underdressed for your Mark Warner holiday.

Tuesday 10am-7pm, Weds 10am-4pm. Waddesdon Plant Centre, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury HP18 0JH. 

My First Cinderella, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Sat 20-Sun 21 April

ENB cinderella

Dig out the frou-frout skirts! My First… ballet show for kids is back again for the very good reason that little people LOVE it. My First Cinderella gives children their first taste of ballet through this most accessible of fairy tales, danced by graduating dancers of the English National Ballet School. If you can’t make it to Aylesbury, don’t panic – it’s pirouetting its way to Oxford’s New Theatre on 4-5 May.

£8-25. Buy tickets here.

Bill’s Restaurant, St Michael’s St, Oxford, just opened

bills oxford


Do you care that another Jamie-style mini-chain restaurant has rocked up in Oxford? Well, it would be remiss not to tell you that the latest outpost of Bill’s has just arrived around these ‘ere parts, and it’s in spitting distance of George St (for the theatre) and Westgate St (for the shopping). I haven’t been yet so I can’t vouch for it personally, but it’s screaming its welcome for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It would be rude not to really.

Northgate Hall, St Michaels StreetOxford OX1 2DU. Tel: 01865

Tickets £8-25.

Free stylist consultation, Bicester Village. 

boden radiator shot
Years ago, I commissioned a feature on The Independent pitching the talents of personal stylists at Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nics against each other. Polly Vernon (now of Gracia) was the very willing journalist and it was a lot of fun seeing what they trussed her up in.  I remember thinking ‘I’d better try that out too’, but never got round to it. Maybe, 15 years too late, I’ll take up the stylist consultation at Bicester Village instead. The complimentary service is available throughout the week to anyone who needs a bit of friendly guidance in the fashion department. Form an orderly queue and prepare to be overhauled. Pre-book by calling +44 (0)1869 366 277 or email



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