The Urban Guide to the Countryside

10 ideas for things to do, this week and beyond, 21-28 Jan

20 Jan 2017

Ross Noble, Watford Colosseum, Wed 8 Feb

Tickets are going fast for this one, so you’d better be quick. I once had the pleasure of interviewing Ross Noble for the Guardian and went to see his show the same night. He talked about how he does Kung Fu in his dressing room and that he pretends to be Bruce Lee before he goes on stage. Watford Colosseum, are you ready for this? He might have a plan of what he’s going to do but before he knows it, he’s improvising. He takes his audience on a magical whirlwind tour of the very mundane and the very surreal and you will leave the theatre feeling as if you’ve been shaken up in a kaleidoscope. He is also brilliant at involving the audience – so watch out – I love the way he builds up layers of jokes as he riffs on people’s stories.

Ross Noble tickets

Jackie, Letchworth Broadway and national release, out now

A hotly tipped Oscar contender, this biopic stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy and homes in on the bleak days following JFK’s assassination. Portman is extraordinary as a woman who has the rug pulled out from under her feet – quite literally when she has to relinquish the White House as her family home, while mourning the sudden loss of her husband. The costumes are, naturally, fabulous too.

Letchworth Broadway 

Burns Night Supper, Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden, Weds 25 Jan

But we hae meat, and we can eat. Celebrate what took place on a dark and windy night in Alloway by eating haggis washed down with Glenmorangie on a dark and windy night in Herts. The Bricklayers Arms is a great pub, and you can read Pippa’s review of it here. Far from trad, the creativity at the Bricklayers will make your mouth water. Deconstructed Scotch egg with pheasant (sourced over the border in Bucks) should get your tastebuds tingling. I’ve got my eye on butterscotch cream and rhubarb mousse on shortbread with Islay whisky ice cream. Five course set menu, £35.

Burns Night at the Bricklayers Arms

Behind the scenes at the museum, Tring, Thurs 26 Jan

The Natural History Museum in Tring is a fascinating place, with one of the main attractions being the fleas dressed in outfits knitted by nuns. This is a look at the bird collection, and, as you can imagine, you will learn more than you ever thought you needed to know about ornithology. Tickets are £10 and you need to book.


Get Out of Auto Mode, photography workshop by Kasia Burke, Sat 18 Feb, Hitchin

Kasia Burke is an extremely talented photographer who has a great reputation in Hitchin and further afield. If you’re stuck in a rut with your camera (and that’s if you can ever detach yourself from your phone) then this one is for you. The workshop is in The Barn at the back of the Victoria Pub in Hitchin. 10am-1pm, £35

Kasia Burke workshop

The First Hippo on the Moon, Rhodes Theatre, Bishops Stortford, Tues 24 Jan

This has been adapted for the stage by theatre company Les Petits and since the tour started in December is already a massive hit. It involves puppets, music and a space race. I had the pleasure of meeting Clive, the manager of the Rhodes Theatre, last week who told me that sales of David Walliams’ books are second only to those of JK Rowling. The Rhodes has great plans for developing its programme of family shows this year so I’ll keep you posted.

Hippo tickets

Jem Lester, Shtum, The Junction Christchurch, Chorleywood, Tues 30 Jan


Shtum has been likened to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by some but it’s a very different story. Ben’s ten-year-old son Jonah has autism and has never spoken. Despite this he seems to communicate better than most of the adults in his life. Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s father and one of the themes in the book is the communication between three generations of men. Shtum also challenges the more common idea that a child with autism is gifted in some way which can add a dash of glamour and detract from the reality. Jem Lester’s own son a son has autism and this story is based on his own experience. Event book vouchers £10 to include a copy of the book. 7pm.

Chorleywood Bookshop

Archaeology Apprentices, Sat 28 Jan

Now then. This could be a way of inspiring your kids to think of a career that will provide them with scintillating small talk for parties. Or perhaps not. The Museum in St Albans is always coming up with good ideas to engage people with what they do. This is a simulated archaeology dig and they are inviting anyone from 5-11 to ‘peel back layers of time’. Sounds fancy. But just before you think that you can leave them there and slope off for coffee and a bit of light shopping in St Albans, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll need to stay with them. The good news is that it’s free. 2.15pm and 3.15pm

St Albans Museum

Vegetarian cooking classes, Martin Burke, Hitchin, from Tues 24 Jan

A three class course with Hitchin vegetarian chef Martin Burke. You can catch him at the Farmers’ Market in Hitchin and he also delivers food to workplaces in Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock. At the time of writing, only one place is left on the course, but there are more dates available to book for later in the year. The first beginners course is from Tues 24 Jan to Tues 7 Feb. One thing is certain: the knives will be sharp, thanks to Tim Keegan. Next week you can read about my meeting with Tim, the man who has gave up his job to sharpen knives and garden tools, after being inspired by the tradition of travelling knife sharpeners in Italy. Here’s a flavour of the arrotino.

Martin Burke’s cookery classes

In Conversation with Deliciously Ella, The Junction Christchurch, Chorleywood, Weds 25 Jan, 7pm

The courgette crisis – can we really blame the spiralizers? – and clean eating have both hit the headlines this week. You may have seen last night’s Horizon. I am interviewing Deliciously Ella and I’m looking forward to it. See you there.


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The Urban Guide to the Countryside -
Hertfordshire Edition