What’s On: Thurs 26 Nov – Weds 2 Dec
Twas the Night Before Christmas, Hughenden, Tues 1 Dec – Sun 3 Jan
I’m a big fan of the National Trust’s Hughenden Manor , but it’s just a nudge further away for me than Waddesdon Manor so I rarely seem to go. Anyway, here’s the perfect reason to make the pilgrimage to Disraeli’s former family home to see it in all its festive splendour, decorated with the theme ‘Twas the night before Christmas with sugar plum fairies, a miniature sleigh and stockings hung by the chimney. Little ones can follow the Christmas trails, hunt for mice in the Manor or round up the reindeer in the gardens.
Hughenden Manor, HIgh Wycombe, Bucks, nationaltrust.org.uk
Aladdin, Oxford Playhouse, from Fri 27 Nov
Here they come! The first Oxford panto to break ranks is The Oxford Playhouse with its Aladdin. No celeb names attached to this one, but it does have its own big name writer/director in Steve Marmion, the Artistic Director of Soho Theatre and creator of a host of critically acclaimed pantos for London’s Lyric Hammersmith, so the signs are good for a superior panto. Widow Twankey, Aladdin, Princess Perfect Rose, Wishee Washee the Dog and Pee King the Duck on their adventures in the ancient city of Ox-A-For. Recommended age for the panto is 5+ though younger kids who don’t mind the noise are allowed too.
£15 – £26, oxfordplayhouse.com
Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, Fri 27 Nov – 20 Dec
Loving the sound of this. Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is stonkingly pretty so this Enchanted Christmas illuminated celebration of its trees, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 27 November to 20 December, will be a magical trip out. A new lighting design is created each year, taking in around a mile of the arboretum’s paths – about a 45 minute walk, pushchair-friendly and accessible by wheelchair or mobility scooter.
Pre-booking is required on Saturday evenings. The trail opens at 5pm each evening. The last entry to the car park is at 7pm and the last entry to the trail is at 7.30pm. Westonbirt Arboretum, Westonbirt, Tetbury, Gloucs,
Henley Living Advent Calendar, from Tues 1 Dec
A brilliant idea, this one. The Henley Living Advent runs every evening from 1 – 24 Dec and works like a real advent calendar. A different window or door at a Henley location is opened at 6.15pm promptly each evening and a 30 minute performance is given to the audience assembled – anything from carols and poetry to book excerpts, sketches and dances at places from The Leander Club to The Rex Picturehouse. Free ‘winter warmers’ promised from mulled wine, bubbly or sausage rolls. The first one launches at Henley Town Hall on 1 Dec if you fancy going along.
…—…SOS, Bruce Munro installation, Waddesdon Manor, until January.
Very very excited about this Bruce Munro’s light installation at Waddeson Manor, his final exhibition after a three year residency at Waddesdon Manor. His latest work, the amusingly titled …—…SOs is currently illuminated in the Waddesdon Manor Gardens and shows his customary wit and cleverness, this installation inspired by his childhood memories of camping holidays. Expect illuminated tents, fuzzy soundwaves, and enthralled kids.
Phil Peskett with the Spin Trio, Spin Jazz, Oxford, Thur 26 Nov
Spin Jazz is at its best for me when they lay off the guitars and bring on the brass and keyboards. Phil Peskett, a regular at the 606 and Ronnie Scott’s, is one of the most inventive pianists around, and now he’s coming to Spin for the night. Professor of Jazz Piano at London’s Trinity and writer of the ABRSM jazz syllabus, Peskett has played with everyone from Natalie Williams to Moloko. So you *shrug* he’s not bad.
Doors open 8.30pm /band on 9pm. £10 / £8 conc /£6 students. spinjazz.net
Horrible Histories: Groovy Greeks or Incredible Invaders, New Theatre Oxford, Tues 1 – Sat 5 Dec
My kids are totally into Horrible Histories and I’m probably even more of a fan – I think their Westlife rendition of The Four Georges will stay with me forever (seen it? here, have a look!). The live show comes to the New Theatre from next Tuesday with two world premieres – Groovy Greeks (starting Tues) and Incredible Invaders (Weds). Choose which one as any modern parent would – according to the school syllabus! atgtickets.com
Ben Fogle: Labrador, Gerrard’s Cross Bookshop, Sat 28 Nov
Ben Fogle fans, time to swoon (half of the Home Counties *thuds*). The nation’s favourite soppy foppy and his black lab are lollop to Gerrard’s Cross Bookshop this weekend to publicise his book Labrador, finding out what makes it the world’s most popular dog breed. Buy a book, get it signed and don’t forget to bring your own pooch.
11.30 – 12.30 Gerrards Cross Bookshop, 12a Packhorse Road. Gerrards Cross, Bucks, chilternbookshops.co.uk
Off the Wall Art Fair, Bucks County Museum, Sat 28 Nov (fair runs to 12 Dec)
This popular show is already running with oils, watercolours, prints, sculpture and ceramics from 29 artists. You can meet them on Saturday (11am-3pm) if you want to have a chatty poo about their art, otherwise just browse and buy at your leisure up until 12 December.
Church Street, Aylesbury, buckscountymuseum.org
Ipsden Christmas Fair, Sun 29 Nov
There are gazillions of fairs and markets on at this time of year but I love the sound of this one at Ipsden, South Oxon, not least because it’s held at the Ipsden Farm Barn, the longest tithe barn in England (reason enough to go right there). Over 70 stalls selling clothes, leather goods, antiques, arts and crafts, jewellery, and it does look very classy (Vintage Goose who I mentioned the other day are selling there). It’s a really pretty area for walking, and there are loads of lovely pubs if you’re looking to combine pleasure and, um, more pleasure. Goring is close for The Miller of Mansfield, there’s The Crooked Billet at Stoke Row, The Quince Tree in Stonor or just look on my reviewed pubs map for other options.
West Wycombe Festive Fayre, Weds 2 Dec
The picture-perfect centre of the National-Trust owned West Wycombe holds its Festive Fayre next Weds from 5pm – 9pm. Local shops will be open late (check out The Apple Orchard for sure), there’ll be a Santa’s Grotto in Black Boy Yard and there will be kids games and rides.
West Wycombe Village, nationaltrust.org.uk
The Botanist opens, Mon 30 Nov
Marlow’s bar scene has a new contender. The Botanist bar and restaurant opens on Monday, just around the corner from Clayton’s Marlow and Baroosh on the high street. It’s part of a small chain (the photo is its Birmingham venue but you get the idea) and this is its first southern outpost. Rack em up!
wonder.land at the National Theatre, until April
A new musical of Alice for the online generation. Blur’s Damon Albarn and playwright Moira Buffini go down the rabbit hole and pop out the other side with this mixture of live theatre, music and technical wizardry. Teenager Aly discovers a mysterious online world where she can create a whole new life with the internet as her looking glass, blurring online and offline realities. Could be terrible, could be brilliant, won’t be boring. Recommended age 10+
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, until 3 Jan
It’s all kicked off already in Hyde Park – Winter Wonderland is up and running again! It really is a massive event every year now, and we’ve been a few times en famille and loved it every time. There’s just so much going on – lots of hustle and bustle. And there’s something very Christmassy (for me, at least) about a trip to London to see the lights and get properly in the mood.
Christmas at Kew, until 2 Jan (not every day)
For a sparkly London Christmas that might be a bit more on the tasteful side, you could try Christmas at Kew instead. A mile-long path makes its sparkly way through the gardens, the fountains are illuminated, there’s a ‘Choir of Holly Bushes’ (er?), a Tunnel of Lights and a scented Fire Garden – as well as vintage rides, gifts and so on. Sounds positively delightful. Best to book in advance, though, as the trail in particular gets very popular.