Boswells Blog - June 2015

23rd June 2015

How the right pillow can help you get a good night's sleep

How the right pillow can help you get a good night's sleep

Tunde from our linens department is an expert on pillows and an advocate of the right fit for you. We hope her advice will be useful here, but don't forget you can come and see our Linens team if you want some face to face advice. 

Something to bear in mind is that we spend approximately one third of our lives in bed! So in life you deserve a good pair of shoes, a good mattress and an excellent pillow. A poor night’s sleep can ruin your day. So let's avoid that and find the best pillow for a comfortable nights sleep.

You have plenty of options to choose from in our store. We also have plenty of samples for you to try from our range, so don't be shy and test some out.

We are all very different and so are  pillows so which one is the best for you?

It depends on the following:

Your mattress hardness

If you are keen to spend a bit on a good mattress, it will only be worth it if you will buy the right pillow to match it. The mattress hardness has an effect on the pillow’s thickness. If you have a softer mattress your shoulder may sink into it and therefor a thinner pillow may suffice. If you have a harder mattress the opposite is true.

How broad your shoulders are

A person with broad shoulders and a wide neck will probably need a firm pillow to get the right support. 

Your sleeping position

Sleep positionsWhat is the best sleeping posture? We don't think there is a definitive answer for that but flat on your back is a winner according to most experts. It reduces pressure on your muscles and joints and even prevents your face from wrinkling since it is not being pressed into the pillow. The only disadvantage is that a person sleeping on their back is more likely to snore! 

The danger of sleeping on your side is that if your pillow is too far down, your head ’falls’ causing your upper neck muscles to constantly stretch.

Either way, an important thing to remember is to keep your spine straight. An incorrect thickness or a poorly designed pillow will lead to a bad and restless night’s sleep and over time can create problems for the spine and muscle tension. A small trick I’ve been using for many years is to place a small pillow between your knees, especially when you sleep on our side. It keeps your knees comfortable, your pelvis aligned and  your spine supported. Try it out!

  • A medium hard pillow is the best option when you sleep on your back or side. It has to be large enough to hold up the head and neck but not so large that the head is tilted too far forward.
  • If you prefer to sleep on your front (you are a tummy sleeper) the best option is a soft, thin pillow (like a goose down one).

 For more information on sleeping positions in regards to health and even what it says about you read more here.

Filling of the pillow

A pillows filling provides support and comfort for the user. It can be natural (feather and/or down – goose or duck – and wool) or synthetic (hollowfibre or microfiber made of polyester). The filling is extremely important to anyone with allergies as natural fillings are likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Non-allergenic – the material itself will not cause an allergic reaction but triggers such as dust mites can still be present over time. This is also what hypoallergenic means.

Anti-allergy – the material is not only non-allergenic, but is actively preventing or minimizing an allergic reaction.

For synthetics the base fibres don't not give off any dust unlike natural fibres and this in itself make it non-allergenic.

The one pillow to mention here comes from Dunlopillo – it has 100% breathable latex for extra comfort.

Natural fillings such as feather or down do give off dust particles and aren't recommended for those with allergies but are absolutely fine for those without.

The wool pillow  is also non-allergenic - there is a rare allergy to lanolin a natural oil in wool, but when people think they have a wool allergy it is more commonly a sensitivity to to the texture rather than the lanolin allergy. If you think you may be allergic to wool it is worth getting this checked by your doctor. With a pillow case on top and a smooth finish to the pllow this sensitivity to texture can be non-existant. The main benefit to wool is that it has thermoregulation properties which means it keeps your face warm in winter and cool in summer. Pretty useful.

Memory Foam

If you like a firm pillow you may like the memory foam pillow (normal shape or V-Shaped). The memory foam keeps its shape through the night to ensure you get a good nights sleep and helps to provide a comfortable temperature during sleep. 

V shape pillowA V-Shape is excellent for reading and listening to music. If you like reading in bed, the best support would be a memory foam pillow which you can put behind your back in bed.

Whatever the shape, when you buy the pillow in the box it will have been pressed so you should depress your pillow before you use it, by taking it out of the box and plumping it, then just leaving it. It takes 4-5 hours to reform properly. Psst - we have a half price deal on the Dreamtime Deluxe Memory Foam Sensation Pillow with Bamboo and Satin Cover right now!


Dreamstime pillow

We have pillows ranging from £9 up to around £65. Pillows have a minimum life expectancy of around 5 years. But I would suggest changing your pillow every year for hygiene reasons. If that seems a bit much at the higher priced end of the pillows, think of it as 15p a night for a goods night sleep as opposed to £2 a day for that coffee gone in 5 minutes.

While I was writing this article I had a chance to serve a customer from the US. He moved to Oxford 2 months ago and was looking for a good pillow. I let him try many different ones and was able to answer a lot of questions that he had. I come from Hungary and I’m aware that my English is not perfect. Fortunately, the pillows speak for themselves! He bought a wool pillow.

See all the pillows on our website here

16th June 2015

The Free Ruskin Theatre Platforms

The Free Ruskin Theatre Platforms

Oxford is a busy place for literary and theatrical events. Many of us wish we took up more of these opportunities, so Rosie in our Pharmacy shows us a good way to start.

Hearing the sad news of Ron Moody’s death reminded me of the time I met him, at the Oxford Literary Festival a few years ago. He was promoting his autobiography and interspersed his talk with snatches of songs from “Oliver”. A rare treat and Oxford is one of the few cities outside of London that we get these opportunities more regularly than most.

Another famous writer I enjoyed meeting was Mark Haddon. This was at Ruskin Theatre Platforms last year. He talked about watching the play of his novel “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime” in Denmark. He knew what was happening but he didn’t understand a word that was spoken as it was a translated version!

Ruskin Theatre Platforms ProgramThe Ruskin Theatre Platforms are exactly the sort of free opportunity that we can all take advantage of. They are run by Ruskin College's Writing For Performance (WFP) initiative in association with the Oxford Playhouse and incredibly John Retallack (a WFP Tutor), encourages all these talented people to donate their time for free! Thanks to that generosity the events themselves are also free to attend. The money raised from donations goes to support the events and the students.

The format is a rehearsed reading of a modern play followed by a chaired discussion with cast and director afterwards. I certainly enjoy the Ruskin Theatre Platforms and how they manage to get such a depth of feeling with only one day of rehearsal is amazing. 

Previous speakers have included: David Edgar, the aforementioned Mark Haddon and the superb actress Maxine Peake who is also the Patron of WFT.

The remaining events this June are:

"Playhouse Creatures" (1997) by April De Angelis at Ruskin on Wednesday June 7th and at the Oxford Playhouse on Friday June 19th. Described as "1669 - a bawdy troublesome year. Theatres have just reopened after years of Puritan suppression, and for the first time, English actresses appear onstage...

"The Lover" (1962) and "Landscape" (1968) by Harold pinter on Wednesday 24th June at Ruskin. Described as "beautifully written...The Lover is the sexiest play I remember seeing on the television" by the Sunday Times and "landscapre is spellbinding" by the Daily Telegraph.

There is normally a second tranch of platforms in the Autumn so it is not over yet...

Everyone is welcome at these FREE events but booking is essential as space is limited. All money raised goes to support more events and students at this well known college. To book Contact

The college is a short bus or cycle ride from Oxford City Centre. Further details can be found on: 

14th June 2015

Make Dad A Hero This Father's Day

Make Dad A Hero This Father's Day

Jen in our Gift's department has observed a few years of Father's Days and is making a special plea this year on behalf of our family heros. 

Father's day CardsI think our Dad's are rather unsung heros. After many years of deserverdly raising the profile of Mothering Sunday we have rather reached the stage that it has swung the other way and poor old Dad normally get's forgotten. However if you are anything like me as an adult in particular it is Dad you turn to when you need help. As a teenager it was Dad sitting outside the night club at three in the morning waiting to take us home. Dad we call to stop the bath tap from dripping in our first home away from home. Or who thinks of providing a set of tools when we leave home with some advice too.

So the very least we can do is buy a Father's Day card, there are many different types to reflect what Dad means to you personally and writing a heartfelt personal message inside can make all the difference.

Or try a gift that reflect's Dad's interests. We have a fantastic range of models and modelling kits for those fascinated by the world of rail, aircraft, ships and cars. There's the traditional Airfix, Revell, Corgi route or try something unusual with our wooden or metal kits.

Decanter SetMany Dad's have developed a refined taste in drinking over the years (to which we may have contributed) so make it an elegant experience with our ranges of glasses, decanters or flasks for being out and about.

Finally Dad's are by definition men and often strangely fond of their shed's and manly gadgets we have many tongue in cheek, but also actually quite useful ways of showing them we understand the need for time communiing with the bits and bobs box.

Man TinSo I wrote recently about standing up and buying "A Gift For You" so let's come together on June 21st and "Make Dad Our Hero"! See our Father's Day Gift Ideas here.


8th June 2015

When the journey gets rough this technology is tough

When the journey gets rough this technology is tough

Boswells humble beginnings back in 1738 were selling luggage to Oxfordians. Mainly academics, but some of our luggage is rumoured to have been included on voyages with Captain Cook in the 18th century. We have always continued that tradition and we pride ourselves not just on good ranges of luggage, but great advice too.

So Peter from our luggage team being a long term admirer of Samsonite is happy to pass on some of his experience here.

"If it the going gets rough, no problem this technology is tough. In fact I liked it so much I bought 13 cases!"

firelight in racing greenThese were for myself and other family and so far those cases have been to Japan 3 times, Germany twice, Centre Parcs and the less exotic, Malmaison Oxford. They have all returned unscathed and the 4 wheels make them dream to drive even over Oxford cobblestones.

Samsonite Curv technology is used on a variety of their cases including the Firelite, and the brand new Lite-Shock ranges that we keep in stock. The smart Racing Green Firelite is shown here.

The technological bit consists of the way the Polypropylene granules are melted together & then literally weaved like fabric to produce a lightweight case that can withstand even the roughest baggage handling at the airport or being dragged around the world's great sites and cities. This also makes them the lightest hardshell you can buy.

Samsonite have produced this 2 minute video which shows both the creation and testing processes which is as they say "quite interesting".

And if you fancy seing just how much punishment a Curv technology case can take then here you go:

Last but defnitely not least especially for those who travel to the USA is the fact that they all come with a T.S A (travel Sentry Approved) lock. This means you can travel with a locked case and all the security that provides whilst smoothly negotiating customs. The US customs staff have special keys that allow them to open T.S.A approved locks whilst leaving your number code alone. Without an approved lock they have been known to cut cases open or cut locks off!

OK, now the hard bit. These cases do cost that little bit extra and that may be over the top for a single weekend away to Brighton, but if you travel annually or more or for long distances then a 10 year warrenty and the peace of mind that these superb cases provide is well worth it.

4th June 2015

Dinosaurs are back in Oxford!

Dinosaurs are back in Oxford!

3.5 tons, around 10 metres long. Large, narrow head with a massive toothless beak. Could move on two or four legs, but was faster on two – up to 15 mph. This is Iguanodon, frequent inhabitant of what is now Oxfordshire, around 125 millions years ago. Thanks to the Oxford Univeristy Museum of Natural History you can admire the reconstruction of it’s skull in our display window on Broad Street!

 “If you ask most people to name a dinosaur, the chances are they would give a North American example such as Tyrannosaurus rex, but the term ‘dinosaur’ was actually invented by a British palaeontologist for fossils found in the UK. Oxford was at the very forefront of these early dinosaur discoveries, and exciting dinosaur research is still going on within the museum collections today.” says Eliza Howlett, Earth Collections Manager of the Museum.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History collections include over 1,200 dinosaur specimens. Many of them are of great scientific importance. Highlights include the world’s first named dinosaur, Megalosaurus bucklandii, and the world’s first sauropod dinosaur, Cetiosaurus oxoniensis. The collection also includes more recent acquisitions such as Juratyrant langhami, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex from Dorset, which was purchased in 1992.

A very close relative of Iguanodon is Cumnoria, as both are from the same group of dinosaurs called ornithopods. The Oxford Univeristy Museum of Natural History has its almost complete skeleton, found in Chawley Brick Pits in Cumnor Hurst in 1879. Definitely worth seeing!

Dinosaurs in Oxford

During the Middle Jurassic period England was a very warm part of the world. Warmth and humidity created perfect conditions for vegetation, which was ideal for the existing species of dinosaurs. Oxfordshire was covered by shallow tidal sea with a vast network of small islands and lagoons, which definitely helped in preserving a large number of fossils.

In 19-th century a number of brick pits in and around the city in conjunction with growing scientific interests created a great opportunity for many discoveries to come to light, although many of them took place even earlier. The first known illustration of a dinosaur bone was published in Robert Plot’s book The Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1677.

The bone was found in a limestne quarry near Chipping Norton, and was thought by Plot to be the bone of a giant. Sadly, the specimen itself has never been discovered in the Oxford University collections, but palaeontologists have been able to identify it from the original drawing as part of the thighbone of the carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus.

Megalosaurus is in fact the first dinosaur to be scientifically described. The bones were found over a number of years in underground mines at Stonesfield. The most famous specimen, part of a lower jaw, was in the collections of the Oxford Anatomy School at Christchurch in 1797, and was purchased for ten shillings and six pence. Click here to read more.

Also on display in the Museum of Natural History is the skeleton of Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis. The skeleton comes from a young animal, and is the most complete example of Middle Jurassic theropod (carnivorous dinosaur) from anywhere in Europe. The bones were found at Webb’s Brick Pit in Summertown in 1870.


Dinosaurs at Boswells

If you are in the mood for more dinosaurs have a look at our great selection of dinosaur themed toys. Also, don't forget to have a look at our amazing display window with the Iguanadon head from the Natural History Museum. Why did the dinosaur cross the road? Why to get to Boswells of course!

Visit the Museum

Oxford University Museum of Natural History is open daily, 10am - 5 pm, and admission is free. This year, the Museum has been chosen as one of six finalists in the prestigious Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015. The annual prize, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious award for UK museums, surveys galleries and museums across the UK and selects those which have demonstrated exceptional creativity and ambition over the past twelve months. The winning museum will be announced on 1 July. Good luck! Take a walk through Oxford University Museum of Natural History - watch the video:



main image © Julius Csotonyi