Showing posts with label Bicester Village. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bicester Village. Show all posts

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Do you ever leave work at 5.30pm?

Working late last night, I finished the piece I was writing and keen to get it out of the way, clicked send. I was stunned ten minutes later to get a reply from the person who’d commissioned the article. It was 10pm!

Whatever happened to the far-flung days when we’d all finish work at 5.30pm and skip merrily out of the office, safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be back at our desks until the next morning? We sometimes went wild and stopped for a drink on the way home, or heaven forbid, went to the cinema. Now, with emails, mobile phones and loads of us working from home, work is a rolling 24-hour enterprise. It’s so extreme in the newspaper world these days that friends of mine work from 8am to 9pm, and are still expected to be on call right round the clock.

That’s why an interview I read with Facebook COO (chief operating officer) Sheryl Sandberg this morning was like a breath of fresh air. In a recent video interview, she relates how she walks out of the office at 5.30pm on the dot every day - so she can have dinner with her children at 6pm. She admits that telling people she was working shorter hours to spend time with her family was a challenge at first but now she’s quite open about it.

“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard,” she says. “I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30am, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say ‘hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.”

As a famous businesswoman at the top of her field, Sheryl Sandberg can call the shots more than the rest of us, but I definitely think she’s on to something.

PS. BT has put its iconic red phone boxes up for sale at an eye-watering £2,000 per box. I don’t know about you, but I’d far prefer one like this chic green one – spotted at Bicester Village the other day…

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The best shops in the country

Moving out of London was bliss. Except for one tiny detail. The shopping. Years of London living, with a friendly deli down the road and the bright lights of Oxford Street just a bus ride away, had definitely spoiled me. The farmhouse on a moody, windswept hill we moved to was heaven but the local shops were dire. I could have cried the day I pitched up in the nearest town to find a long grey street flanked by a Tesco’s at one end and a store selling anoraks and sturdy walking boots at the other. This sounds clichéd, I know, but as for buying a jar of pesto or some decent olive oil, forget it.

But those days are long gone. Shopping in the sticks is chicer than chic. Here in Oxfordshire we’ve got the amazing Bicester Village a few miles away – complete with Anya Hindmarch, Mulberry, Joseph and every other designer you can think of. Emma Bridgewater and Cowshed have recently opened so that's Christmas sorted and when you need an energy boost you can dive into Carluccio's (above) for a plate of pasta.

So just to prove there are fantastic shops in the country, here are my current top three.

The Hambledon in Winchester is my favourite shop in the world. I’ve known owner Victoria Suffield since she was a teenager and she has an eye for design and detail that’s second to none. Her stunning three-floor emporium overlooking Winchester Cathedral sells a dazzling mix of clothes, china, books, children’s things and vintage furniture. The website, which boasts designs by Rob Ryan and a brilliant Christmas gift guide, is definitely worth a look too.

Next up is Carole Bamford’s amazing Daylesford Farmshop and Café, just the other side of Chipping Norton. Critics mutter that it’s like Harvey Nichols in the middle of the muddy Cotswold countryside but it’s great for organic food, china, flowers and the most stylish clothes this side of the M40.

Third on my list is the Bettys Café Tea Room chain. There are six branches of Bettys – one in Ilkley, one in Northallerton and two each in Harrogate and York – plus an excellent mail order service. Despite countless pleas from customers, the company has resolutely refused to open any outside Yorkshire. Their elegant cafés are open all day, with charming waitresses in starched white pinnies serving everything from Bettys famous Fat Rascals (a sort of giant scone with cherries and almonds) to lunch and afternoon tea. And on the way home, you can stock up with freshly-baked bread, cakes, chocolates, coffee and tea. Perfect.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Bicester Village - like Bond Street in the country

When I moved to Oxfordshire a few years back I was amazed to discover we had the out-of-town equivalent of Bond Street on our doorstep.

Bicester Village looks like a quaint New England street, all white clapboard shop-fronts and tasteful landscaping, but in reality it’s a shoppers’ paradise just two miles off the M40. The 130 or so shops include all the names fashionistas worth their salt dream about, from Vivienne Westwood and Anya Hindmarch (above) to Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. They stock clothes, bags, shoes, you name it, from last season at knock-down prices - perfect for these tough economic times. Reductions range between 33 and 60 per cent but eagle-eyed shoppers make a point of watching out for “further reduction” periods, when some prices drop by a staggering 70 or 80 per cent.

The place attracts more than four million bargain-hunters a year from all over the world and is virtually always packed – so much so that a couple of years back they had to build a vast second car park.

If you want to take a break from shopping and treat yourself to lunch there are loads of tempting restaurants, including Carluccio’s, Villandry and Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts, while at Christmas the Bicester Village staff organise late night shopping evenings, complete with carol singers, mince pies and mulled wine.

Armani, Gucci and Superdry have all arrived in the last couple of years but my favourite shops are Mulberry, where I bought a gorgeous Bayswater bag at half price, Jack Wills (my stylish 19-year-old daughter says it’s too preppy for her but the staff are delightful), All Saints and L’Occitane for heavenly lavender bath foam that reminds me of Provence.
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