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GIVEAWAY – Tickets to the Vitality Show

The Vitality Show 2011 offers a perfect line-up for a healthier, happier, fitter and more gorgeous you!

The ultimate girls’ day out is back and better than ever! Tickets for the Vitality Show 2011, the UK’s largest health, beauty, fitness and wellbeing event for women, are on sale now.



The show offers four fun-packed days of pampering, shopping, healthy eating, dancing, socialising and essential know-how gathering, from 24-27 March at Earl’s Court London.

Celebrity ChefCelebrity guests – from top TV chefs to dance professionals, athletes and some of life’s most inspirational people – will join the hottest health and beauty experts and over 300 absolute must-have fitness, food and lifestyle brands.

Highlights of this year’s show include:

Yoga studio

Yoga studio


New! Dance Theatre Strictly amazing! The new Dance Theatre will thrill and entertain – showcasing some of the UK’s hottest dance talent from street dance to salsa, ballet to ballroom, bangra to breakdancing.

Fitness Park

Fitness Park


One Life Theatre and Vitality Workshops If you’re looking for a new direction, want a career change or simply need to get some balance in your life, the One Life Theatre is for you. With inspirational talks, tips and Vitality Workshops offering 1-2-1 time with top life-coaches and careers experts, you’re sure to leave confident and positive about the future.

New! Make a Difference Makeovers – The Travel Pavilion Discover a world of inspirational adventures, relaxing retreats and feel good opportunities that help make a difference to far-flung communities around the globe. Speak to the experts who can make any travel dream a reality.

New! Food Lovers Fair brings the finest food market straight to you. Feast your eyes on the freshest, tastiest morsels then sample the delights of seasonal, regional produce including all the essentials for the modern chef’s health-conscious kitchen!

New! The Wardrobe We’ve created a wardrobe just for you with everything from fabulous accessories to must-have shoes, the latest bags and vintage bargains so you can shop until you drop.

To celebrate the launch of the Vitality Show we have FOUR pairs of tickets to giveaway to In Balance readers! Simply send an email to with your contact details, to reach us latest 28 February 2011. Only one application per household.

For more information, or to book your place at the hottest health, beauty, fitness and well-being event of the year visit now!


Editor’s View

Editor, Val Reynolds

Editor, Val Reynolds

With a remit of Women’s Health and Lifestyle we have a huge area of interest to write about.

Sometimes I just like to write short pieces reflecting on some subject or another, other times it might be a bit of a rant.

At other times I invite readers, colleagues and friends to send something they would like to appear on the website or to add information to one of the features on the Forward Feature list which is available on request. If you would like to get in touch with suggestions or any other matter use this contact form 

Val Reynolds Brown Editor


New Richard Bean play

The Heretic logo

The Heretic logo

A new Richard Bean play will shortly be opening at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square.  The Heretic is an interesting take on the climate change debate.

The last Richard Bean production I watched certainly courted controversy. England People Very Nice was a rumbustious romp with a cast of hundreds of all colours, shapes and sizes Bean traces the lives of waves of immigrants to London’s Bethnal Green, from the Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews to the Bangladeshis.

Newspaper critics were utterly divided on the play’s merit.  The Guardian and the Indie were less than impressed, calling it stereotypical and racist, amongst other comments.  Charles Spencer in the Telegraph loved it, and the Jewish Chronicle thought the idea of eating bacon sandwiches outside a synagogue on the day of Atonement hilarious!
It is a satire (a comment on TV called it the satire of Alf Garnett, and indeed one of the characters sports a West Ham scarf) and is cleverly helped along by using the play within a play device – the actors playing the actors are in a detention centre, waiting to hear if they have been granted permission to become British immigrants themselves.
What did I think?  I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic
Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.


London Pub Theatre

Pub culture is changing in London.  This of course has always been so, but it seems to have speeded up in recent times.  Demographic changes in certain areas have led to pub closures as new groups move in who do not drink alcohol and for whom a pub has little attraction.  Receipts dwindle and the shutters go down.  Other pubs are saved by moving with the times.  The smoking ban has certainly made them more family friendly places, and more appealing to those who may have frequented them in the past but were driven away by the hazy fumes of cigarette smoke.  Comfy sofas, much improved food menus and ranges of better quality wine draw in a different crowd.

And pub theatre seems to be thriving.  Not that it’s a newcomer to the London scene.  The Bush theatre above the pub on Shepherds Bush Green has been there for decades, as has the Finborough in Earls Court.  The Pentameters pub theatre in Hampstead claims to be the oldest in London.  The Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms in Camden Town recently made the news by putting on a horror show so frightening that it had members of the audience running out screaming  into the street!

More and more pub owners see that a profitable use (both in money and community terms) can be made out of the large space up the stairs from the pub and two particularly excellent ones are, I believe, worthy of mention.
First up is Upstairs at the Gatehouse, which is where it says it is, above the Gatehouse pub in Highgate village.  It puts on a mixture of professional and non-professional productions (I hesitate to use the word amateur as this often conjures up a false impression of what’s on offer), and the standard is consistently high. The theatre’s been functioning for over a decade and attracts an audience of all sorts (exactly as a community-based theatre should), including the ‘celebs’ of the area (the leader of the Labour party lives a couple of stonethrows away, for example).

A Slice of Saturday Night

A Slice of Saturday Night

Why traipse into the West End and pay those impossible West End prices when for less than half the cost you can spend a wonderful evening out in an intimate space.  You can even enjoy a delicious Loseley icecream in the interval for a mere £1.50!  Currently showing is ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’, an 80s musical about the 60s which is absolutely great.  Watch out for  ‘Troy Boy’, a reworking of Offenbach’s ‘La Belle Helene’, in the weeks to come.


The other relative newcomer worthy of mention is the Cock Tavern on the Kilburn High Road.  A much more intimate space than the Gatehouse, it made its name with almost its first foray into the world of theatre with a company called Operaupclose and their version of La Boheme. 

La boheme

La boheme, photography Leonora Saunders

With the first rows of the audience almost sitting on the playing space (and those in the back rows not that far behind) it certainly was up close!  With handsomely rewritten lyrics transporting the hovel in Paris to a typical student digs near you and talented fresh-faced young singers delivering them, it really was a wonderful experience.  The ‘coup de theatre’ was performing the second act, which takes place in a tavern, in the public bar of the pub itself.  I think that by the time I saw the production (back there for a second run by popular demand), the locals had got used to the strange goings on in their pub, but I’d have liked to have seen one of the earlier performances!



Jeannette Nelson Arts Critic

Jeannette Nelson: Arts Critic

So, there are some thoughts on what’s struck me as interesting.  But if you’ve got a local pub that has been enterprising enough to use some of its space for theatrical endeavours, why don’t you check it out sometime.  I’d be surprised if you were disappointed!

Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.



Below Stairs Art

Watching the recently resurrected Upstairs Downstairs tv production I was reminded of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Below Stairs: 400 Years of Servants’ Portraits held 2003/2004.

Staff portraits

Staff portraits

The exhibition clearly showed some servants were highly regarded and valued enough to have their portraits painted. Many portraits were of senior staff, from gardeners and cooks to nurses or nannies close to their employers. Often commissioned to show wealth, through the livery, pastoral or interior surroundings of the sitter, a fair proportion of portraits were painted by amateurs or naive painters, having little or no extensive expertise.

Joseph Florance

Joseph Florance

Interestingly, the celebrated French chef, Joseph Florance, to three Dukes of Buccleuch earned about two and half times as much as the steward of the whole estate – he was painted by John Ainslie in 1817.

The exhibition was organised chronologically with the earliest British servant portraits, dating from around 1615, featuring the personal entertainers of the crown or aristrocracy. The sitters were descendants of medieval servants in the lord’s retinue such as minstrels and jesters, who had been his close personal servants in an age before literacy, the printed book and professional actors.

Some of most remarkable paintings were painted in isolated parts of the country, where the continuation of feudal patterns of service meant that servants such as jesters, pipers or champions survived long enough to be recorded in paint.

The Munshi Abdul Karim

The Munshi Abdul Karim

The Munshi Abdul Karim by Rudolph Swoboda, 1888, shows a handsome, if romanticised portrait of one of Queen Victoria’s Indian servants. Munshi is Hindustani for teacher. She much admired this man who taught her Hindustani and who was promoted to the Queen’s Indian Secretary. His portrait is one of a series, now hanging at Osborne House.

Many paintings depicted the servant in distress from discrimination, or in a state of exhaustion after working the long hours expected of them. Elsewhere, a butler is shown helping himself to the port and other servants taking time off to rest.

Most, if not all, carry messages for the viewer, but some were direct messages for the servants themselves.

This version of the Trusty Servant was painted by William Cave. The concept is old and international, going back to medieval literary sources. It epitomises the aspirations of masters and mistresses over the centuries to find the perfect servant and the qualities required. It shows the Windsor uniform designed by George III for members of the Royal Household.

This painting hangs next to the kitchens at Winchester College together with a panel with this explanatory verse.

A trusty servant’s picture would you see,
This figure well survey, who’ever you be.
The porker’s snout not nice in diet shows;
The padlock shut, no secret he’ll disclose;
Patient, to angry lords the ass gives ear;
Swiftness on errand, the stag’s feet declare;
Laden his left hand, apt to labour saith;
The coat his neatness; the open hand his faith;
Girt with his sword, his shield upon his arm,
Himself and master he’ll protect from harm

The concept is old and international, going back to medieval literary sources. Versions were reproduced during the nineteenth century in prints, china, glass, wood, textiles and inn signs.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor


Incontinence – My most embarrassing experience

Woman's face

Incontinence sometimes feels more than embarrassing, it feels dirty, shameful and discourages contact with the outside world, in case you ‘leak’. This is not an unusual situation for a woman to find herself in, especially having had children, and more especially once you get beyond 60. Muscles have a tendency to lose their elasticity and this is when incontinence problems creep in. It’s not just the pelvic floor that is affected. Chewing your food where the jaw has lost some of its strength and doesn’t quite line up as it did before. This results in biting your tongue unexpectedly, or the inside of your cheek.

Much of this comes as a surprise to those of us who have kept fit and active. The effects of aging do vary, but they inevitably affect most of us.

For 40 year old Evie, it was when she was rushing along the platform at Paddington to catch the train back home that the first really humiliating accident happened.

It was Summer, and I was wearing a Nicole Farhi pale silk skirt, with bare legs and sandals. How could I forget.

I had had, on occasion over the previous couple of years, drips up until then – drips and sometimes trickles. But this time, as I ran, it was as if a bucket had upended inside me. It trickled down my legs and splashed onto my feet.

My skirt was stuck to my thighs. I kept running – it was all I could do. I had to catch the train – if I didn’t, I would be late picking my son up from school. I just hoped that if I ran fast enough, no-one would notice – I would be an indistinct blur, not a middle-aged woman who had wet herself … And anyway, I told myself, there’s no-one on this platform I’m ever likely to see again. Thank goodness. Once on the train I just rushed into the toilet. Not to go – no, I’d done that already. I pulled off the sodden and completely ruined skirt and equally sodden knickers. I tied my cardigan (oh thank god I had one) round my waist, and holding my bag (into which I had stuffed skirt and knickers) awkwardly in front of me, made my way to a seat. And at the other end, I just hoped for the best.

Since then, I have found out what it is all about. I have a prolapse due to a very difficult birth ten years ago, and it’s too far gone for pelvic floor exercises. I’ve had to come a long way in coping with it. Five years ago, it was getting worse, gradually. Crossing my legs when I knew I was about to sneeze, and sitting down if anyone made me laugh hysterically was just the beginning.

It’s now also affecting my bowel – the last taboo – but I have found ways of coping. The bowel was of course a terrible shock. I just didn’t believe it at first. Finding smears, I imagined, irrationally, I hadn’t wiped properly. For what else could it possibly be? When it became more than smears, I wondered if I had some kind of light diarrhoea. I felt puzzled, and a little frightened. I didn’t want to tell even my doctor, and I couldn’t tell my family or my best friend.

Urinary stress incontinence seems a cinch in comparison – almost something I mention in passing. They even refer to it on the adverts on the tv these days. Bowel stress incontinence is something else. It is, (and just don’t carry on reading if you can’t stomach it) exactly like leaving the top off a tube of toothpaste. That is the nearest way of describing it. Luckily, it only happens for 24 hours once a month, when my period is at its heaviest and the stress is at its greatest. And that, you will be happy to know, is as bad as it gets. The rest is good news.

You can, of course, have operations to put prolapses right. Most women can be fixed, and the kind of problems I have are something that usually much older women have to face, or anyone, like me, who for one reason or another, can’t have the operation. But there are ways of coping, and with the help of a good gynaecological therapist and adviser – ask your doctor to refer you – the problem is not unliveable with.

Pelvic floor exercises are the first stage, although after a while they didn’t work for me. I decided to try yoga. Upside down poses seemed to help, (well, it makes sense, doesn’t it?) and as I practised yoga every day my general fitness fitness improved. I learned how to do head stands and shoulder stands, and generally felt far more in control of my body. I used panty pads every day just in case, and support pants (big pants – who cares?) added to a feeling of ‘held in-ness’ and security.

When the bowel thing started, I despaired for a while. I felt dirty, and unfeminine. But then my gym adviser told me about Immodium tablets, which can be taken just on those one or two stressful days to hold everything in, and which work almost instantly. She monitored me carefully, making me write down a diary for a month, and then advised me to look carefully at my diet during the days leading up to my period. Less fibre and fruit means firmer stools. A football is less likely to fall out than peas – see what I mean?

Then, six months ago, I started jogging. Now this is something I had not thought I could do anymore – it was just too risky after the Paddington Station incident, wasn’t it? But I had a dog, I had a river with a tow path, and something made me go for it.

I prepare myself well. ‘Poise’ incontinence pads for ladies are discreet and effective. No drinks just before. A long T-shirt that reaches below my thighs just in case anyone but the dog is looking. A last minute visit to the loo, and I’m off. And something incredible and unexpected has happened. Having jogged a mile or two three times a week for several months, the pads have started coming home dry! I’ve lost a kilo or so, true, and I’m generally fitter. But I hardly ever leak, even running for a bus. I still cross my legs for sneezes and sit down for giggles, but apart from that one day of the bowel thing, I am absolutely fine – in control and fitter than ever. I’ve even discarded the support pants and only seldom wear a panty pad. It’s not cured, of course, and the problem could get far worse, apparently, during menopause. But for the time being, what is described as a purely ‘mechanical’ problem, that needs hoisting, stitching and mending, has miraculously got itself better by other means.

But I don’t tell anyone. No, not even my partner. There are just some days/nights when any kind of intimacy is absolutely strictly out of the question, and that’s that – don’t even go there, as they say …

And no, the skirt didn’t survive. Not even dry cleaning could help.

Author’s name withheld for diplomatic reasons

Incontact is the UK charity for people with bladder and bowel problems. Visit or call 0870 770 3246

Do you have an embarassing experience you feel would benefit our readers to read about? Do get in touch – I guarantee absolute confidentiality.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor, email


Dental Treatment Abroad

Check out the facts before you check in

A fine set of teeth

A fine set of teeth

With more and more people considering dental treatment abroad, UK dental regulator, the General Dental Council (GDC) has issued guidance and advice to dental patients with a checklist of questions to ask before travelling abroad for treatment.

The aim of the checklist, produced in association with the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), the UK’s leading oral health charity, is to help dental patients make informed decisions about their dental care, wherever they receive treatment.

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive and Registrar of the GDC, said: Our job is to protect UK dental patients by making sure all dental professionals practising in the UK are trained appropriately and registered with us. We think it’s important for dental patients – wherever they receive their treatment – to know the questions to ask to ensure they receive the best possible treatment and care, and where they can go if something goes wrong.

That’s why we want to encourage people considering travelling abroad for dental care to ask questions before making a decision about their treatment. Qualifications and standards are likely to differ from country to country, so it’s important that you collect as much information as you can before committing to anything.

Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the BDHF, said: The National Dental Survey 2008 found that 16% of people would be willing to travel abroad for dental treatment and the figure was even higher among the 18 to 30 age group – suggesting the trend will continue.

This document provides members of the public with a very useful starting point on the questions to ask before getting dental treatment abroad.

Styles and standards of dentistry can vary a great deal from one country to another and, if things do go wrong, patients could still be left facing some difficult and potentially expensive decisions.

However by researching their chosen practitioner and asking the right questions they can reduce the chances of encountering potentially avoidable problems further down the line.

A copy of the dental tourism checklist is available on their website,

The International Dental Health Foundation, is dedicated to improving the oral health of the public by providing free and impartial dental advice, by running educational campaigns like National Smile Month and by informing and influencing the public, profession and government on issues such as mouth cancer awareness and water fluoridation.

For free and impartial expert advice contact the Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188 Monday to Friday.

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

This feature was first published in January 2010


Amalgam tooth fillings – toxicity claims debunked

Heavily filled teeth

Heavily filled teeth

For a long time in the alternative health and more recently in the popular health press, concern has been flagged up of the possibility of mercury leaking from tooth filling amalgam. A lot of money can be spent on having fillings removed and replaced by non-toxic amalgams, even going abroad to save money.

So it was interesting to read on the QuackWatch of reviews that dispute the toxicity claims. I am reproducing it in full:

False dental amalgam toxicity claims slammed again

A study of 56 patients who claimed to have symptoms caused by mercury in their amalgam fillings has found that none of the patients had significant levels of mercury in their blood or urine levels. The researchers noted that 20 of the patients has previously been previously diagnosed with mercury toxicity by “commercial practitioners using unconventional testing panels.” [Eyeson J and others. Relationship between mercury levels in blood and urine and complaints of chronic mercury toxicity from amalgam restorations. British Dental Journal 208(4):E7, 2010] A recent review by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs concluded: “Studies continue to support the position that dental amalgam is a safe restorative option for both children and adults. When responding to safety concerns it is important to make the distinction between known and hypothetical risks.” [ADA Council on on Scientific Affairs. Literature review: dental amalgam fillings and health effects on amalgam fillings and health effects. Amalgam Safety Update, Sept 2010]

During the past few weeks, unjustified scare headlines have been generated by an anti-amalgam campaign that involved testimony at an FDA hearing. In response, Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D. noted:

“The simple truth is that there is no significant risk because amalgam fillings are safe. . . . The promotion of anti-amalgamism is regularly linked with fringe practitioners, people with financial interests in promoting something else, and pseudoscience. Based on past practices, and rhetoric, I’m one of many who conclude that the anti-amalgamists resemble more a religious cult than a group of serious, objective scientists searching for the truth.” [Baratz RS. More notes on the anti-amalgam movement. Dental Watch, Dec 18, 2010]

Earlier this year we wrote about a checklist of questions to ask before travelling abroad for treatment issued by the General Dental Council,  reproduced in this Health section.


Runnymede Spa and Hotel

It was easy to relax and chill out in the darkened room, with soothing music, gentle aromas and competent hands massaging my weary body. It was quite companionable as my colleague was on a treatment couch just a few feet away. We didn’t speak to each other, but it felt good.

I was at the spa in the Runnymede Hotel, Egham and pleasantly surprised at the peace and quiet. Having battled my way through the M25 traffic, actually it wasn’t that bad, with the aid of my trusty SatNav, I welcomed the chance of the Crystals and Champagne spa break after a particularly trying week at work.

A group of six of us were booked into the Aquitaine suite*, with a member of staff assigned to look after us. A completely private area separated from the main spa and gym areas it is only accessible by pass codes. Absolutely ideal for private parties of up to about eight.

With a room for relaxing, tv, massage chair, settees, easy chairs there is an adjoining treatment room for two. A changing area with lockers, two large shower rooms and smaller treatment rooms.

The facilities of the spa upstairs made it possible for us to go off to swim, or gym, so it was seldom that all of us were in the room at the same time. It is possible to have all your meals served in the suite which makes it all the more attractive as a retreat. In fact it would be ideal for a group wanting to spend the time meditating, doing yoga, and simply being quiet as there was absolutely no extraneous sound. However if you chose a break with the overnight stay your room would be in the hotel itself.

The spa section is well laid out, the pool was big and spacious, jacuzzi and eucalyptus steam room, well designed gym and exercise studio. The treatment rooms were high standard. There were very pleasant seated areas for relaxation and a very attractive dining room. The food was excellent, imaginative, well displayed and light.

The Crystal treatment made up of neck, back and shoulders massage using hot stones was done well. We chose the oils that appealed to our sense of smell the most. I chose the one that was intended to invigorate – an excellent choice! The facial was rounded off by the use of cool crystals to give contrast and a stimulus to the lymph system. The final head massage was excellent. Espa products were used throughout. It was good to have a coordinated massage that lasted well over an hour.

There is no doubt Runnymede is a luxury hotel from the moment you step through the revolving door, the decor and facilities are of a very high standard. It’s a family hotel with a few rules to please those of us wanting to be child free. For instance at 12 noon children have to leave the spa. They are then allowed to return between 3 and 5 pm.

The hotel is on the River Thames with spacious terraces for warm weather relaxing and lawns down to the river. A heated outdoor pool is open between April and September.

With easy access from the M25 and Heathrow, it is ideal for the traveller who wants a break between flights, or before/after that long haul flight, wanting to do a little historic sightseeing and have a gorgeous spa experience. There is an excellent Treatment Finder on their website to suit individual needs.

Depending on the package you choose prices are from £160 per night based on two people sharing a room, inclusive of VAT and service.

There are plenty of good value offers to choose from.

For further information or to make a booking call the spa on 01784 220600 or visit


*The suite is named after Eleanor Aquitaine mother of King John, who signed the Magna Carta in the famous fields opposite the hotel

This feature also appears on the SpaWellBeing website


A Fish Spa – The Most Unusual Treatment in Town!

Hand therapy bar

Hand therapy bar

I regularly meet up with five lifestyle journalists and a different spa experience really appealed. We had a choice of a hand or foot treatment at the second Aqua Sheko fish spa to open in London, in Frith Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue.

When I mentioned my fish spa pedicure to my friends and colleagues I had a mixed response:

  • Eek! I couldn’t possibly do it!
  • Nothing would induce me to do that!

Having a 'treatment'

So what was it like? We all found it rather fun! After the initial trepidation of putting my feet in the tank of warm water when the fish flocked to my toes, I hardly felt the little Garra Rufa fish nibbling away and spent the 25 minute treatment watching them work hard, while I sipped herbal tea. The treatment ended with a wonderful foot massage that gave me a spring in my step!

Garra Rufa fish, a species of carp, inhabit Turkish hot springs where they naturally breed and feed. For years people with psoriasis and other skin disorders have visited the springs for the fish to painlessly nibble away the dead skin. By peeling away ordinary callouses and the thick lesions of psoriasis, the fish leave feet feeling softer and prettier.

This fish spa phenomenon has been taken up enthusiastically in the Far East where fish foot therapy is available in shopping malls and department stores.

There is of course the concern about transfer of skin infections.  If your feet have any broken skin like Athlete’s Foot, or bruises, it is recommended you wait until they heal before having the treatment.  At Aqua Sheko they have a UV water filter installed to destroy unwanted organisms.

Washing your feet just before the treatment is necessary which also ensures the removal of any skincare chemicals that might harm, or even kill, the fish.

At Aqua Sheko it’s possible to have a whole body treatment! This is something yet to be experienced … maybe a New Year treat.

All details on the Aqua Sheko website

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

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