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What’s On: Muddy Herts Guide 26 Feb-4 Mar

Ooo, it’s chilly and horrid out there.  Lots going on in the warm, though — close to home and further afield.  Question is, how to fit them all in…?

Tea at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, various dates

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If you’re going to splash out for afternoon tea, you might as well do it in style.  The Royal Opera House is serving afternoon tea in its Paul Hamlyn Hall, surrounded by specially commissioned Fauvist-style screens covered in exotic plants, flowers and birds.  Feast – elegantly, of course – on smoked salmon blinis, sandwiches, freshly-baked scones, and then move onto the delicious cakes and pastries.  There are all sorts of loose leaf teas, tisanes, tea-themed cocktails – hoorah! – and champagne.  You’ll need to book in advance – some dates are already sold out, but all the details are on their website.

Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden,  WC2E 9DD,

Wine Tasting Dinner with Ruta40 at [email protected]’s, St Albans, 26 Feb, 7 for 7.30pm

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There are just a couple of places left at the wine-tasting dinner at [email protected]’s in St Albans – which is owned and managed by Michelin-starred chef (yum!) Phil Thompson.  Your starter, fish course, main, cheese and dessert will each be paired with a different wine from Ruta40, an Argentinian wine specialist. Mark Bradbury, from the Hertfordshire Wine School, will be there to talk you through the wine – and you can order the wine you like, if you like, at very attractive prices at the end.  It’s £75 per person – brilliant for a birthday, should you have one coming up! – and there are only two places left.  Sounds delish.

[email protected]’s, 2 Hatfield Road, St Albans, AL1 3RP, 01727 730777,

Vodafone London Fashion Weekend, Somerset House, London, 26 Feb-1 Mar

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Enjoy a beautifully stylish day out this weekend as Somerset House, gorgeous in its own right, will be full to the brim with fashion lovelies, coveted brands, statement pieces, and wardrobe staples for the Vodafone London Fashion Weekend.  There’ll be catwalk shows, chances to shop (oh, really?), style advice – as well as prosecco and pampering.  Fabulous.

Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA,

Netherlands National Circus, Fairlands Valley Car Park, Stevenage, 24 Feb-1 Mar

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Roll up, roll up!  The Netherlands National Circus (no, I didn’t know the Netherlands had one either) is kicking off its latest UK tour in Stevenage.  It’s all about the spectacle – juggling, illusions, aerial performances, acrobatics and trapeze – and there are no animals but there is a live orchestra.  Sounds like fun!

Fairlands Valley Car Park, Stevenage, SG2 0BL, booking line 0113 260 2444,

J. S. Bach’s ‘St John Passion,’ St Albans Abbey, 28 Feb, 7.30pm

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The Hertfordshire Chorus will be performing the St John Passion in the entirely appropriate setting of  St Albans Cathedral.  It’s Bach’s oldest passion, and not performed as often as some of the others, but it’s a good ‘un.  Dramatic, moving, and full of the sort of great choruses and arias that will really fill the cathedral with sound.  Spot of culture, anyone?

St Albans Cathedral, Holywell Hill, AL1 1BY,

Room on the Broom, The Radlett Centre, 3-5 Mar

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If you know any small people at all, you’ll probably be able to recite bits of ‘Room on the Broom’ by heart – it’s definitely one my own Donaldson & Scheffler favourites.  This lovely story about a witch losing her bits and bobs in the wind, but finding lots of animal friends along the way – who then help her escape a hungry dragon – is coming to the stage at the Radlett Centre, with performances in the early afternoons to keep those pre-schoolers happy.   Is there room on the broom for a bird like me…?

The Radlett Centre, 1 Aldenham Avenue, WD7 8HL, 01923 859291,

The Dementia Darnings, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London , 2-27 Mar

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When artist Jenni Dutton began caring for her mother, who was suffering with dementia, she also began ‘drawing’ likenesses of her family members using stitches – ‘darning’ the images.  Inspired by looking through family photo albums together, she went on to create some astonishing and very moving portraits of her mother that exploring ageing and the effects of memory loss.  The Dementia Darnings stems from a serious issue, and showcases some very beautiful work.

City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA,

Mr Turner, Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 4 Mar 7.30pm & 10 Mar 2pm

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If you’ve not seen Timothy Spall – Best Actor at Cannes – as eccentric British painter J. M. W. Turner, then there are a couple of chances at Hemel’s Old Town Hall arts centre.  Tickets are just £3, which is a total steal, and there’s something rather lovely about a mid-week matinee.

Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 3AE, 01442 228091,

WOW Women of the World Festival, Southbank Centre, 1-8 Mar

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Now in its 5th year, the WOW Festival is a veritable smorgasbord of workshops, talks and performances celebrating the lives of women and girls around the world.  There’s a night of comedy, hosted by Sandi Toksvig; an exclusive screening of ‘The Prophet,’ with actor and filmmaker Selma Hayek on hand to take questions afterwards; an exhibition by artist Shelia Hicks; and Niamh Reilly, performing original music, er, upside down.  And that’s just a tiny sampling of all the goings-on.  Sounds brilliant.

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX, 0844 875 0073,

Inventing Impressionism, The National Gallery, 4 Mar-31 May

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This touring show, which will be at the National Gallery for the next few months, includes 85 works by artists such as MonetDegasManetRenoirPissarro and Sisley – all of whom were championed in their early (and unpopular) days by Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, around whose efforts this exhibition is based.  It’s a great chance to see all kinds of renowed Impressionist works brought together in one place – and the perfect excuse for a day out in London.  Should you need one.

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN,

 Alluring Orchids, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, ends 8 Mar

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When it’s so grey and chilly outside, there’s something gloriously tempting about the prospect of stepping into a steamy greenhouse filled with a tropical orchids.  The Alluring Orchids exhibition at Kew not only features hundreds of gorgeous blooms, but also explains how they developed and uses ultraviolet light to reveal the ‘hidden’ marks that some species have to trick visiting insects (clever, eh?).  There are some hands-on events and tours, too, linked to the exhibit.  And a bit of tropical heat certainly wouldn’t go amiss right now, would it?

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB,

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire