Boswells Blog - July 2015

28th July 2015

Keeping The Kids Entertained This Summer

Keeping The Kids Entertained This Summer

It’s week 2 of the summer holidays (or 1 if you only broke up last week) and the weather has been somewhat changeable so far. How to entertain the kids for the rest of the summer as it stretches ahead of us? Well although we would always encourage kids to use their imagination with a good book or playing outside making up their own games, and we have a plethora of toys to help that along,  we also know that organised activities, particularly those that are for the whole family are very welcome. So here’s a bit of a guide to what is happening around Oxford that you might find useful.

Art & Craft Activities

You probably have a range of art & craft materials at home but sometimes there's nothing like being taught a new skill or playing with others to spark inspiration.

Unique Creations

Based on Banbury Road Unique Creations are a pottery company that allows you and your family to hand paint their ceramics and you get to keep them too. They also have a craft area for those more interested in fabric and sewing or decopatch. Open 7 days a week 10am - 5.30pm.

Read more here

Modern Art Oxford entrance

Modern Art Oxford

Although the exhibitions and Modern Art Oxford are aimed at adults they always provide activities for children, often related to the exhibits making it a great stop in Oxford for the whole family. Parents need stimulation too you know. Yet again our insatiable need for caffiene is covered with a family friendly cafe.

Read more here


Reading & Story Activities

Books aren't just for when it's raining, although admittedly they are a great way to get outside at least in our imagination. We have great bookshops and Museums in Oxford catering for our literary needs at whatever age.


Our venerable neighbour up the road has a whole season of activities this summer from theme days, story telling & games.

Read more here 

Barefoot Books

Barefoot Books in Summertown are running a lot of activity events that would fit as neatly into our other categories as here. Particularly arts & music. In addition they are running a Summer Reading Program. As they say "According to research, reading just 6 books with your child over the summer can help prevent Summer “Brain Drain” and preserve learning from the preceding year."

Read more here

The Story Museum

As you would expect the Story Museum keeps up its aleady healthy events schedule during the summer. We particularly like the emphasis on creative writing. The Thursday book club about teenage fiction is open to adults as well as children.

Read more here

Oxford Central Library

Every Wednesday & Thursday at 10.30am the library runs Rhymtime a fun session for the under 5s singing & rhyming away.

Read more here


Science & Nature Activities

The Pitt Rivers Museum & Natural History Museum. 

On the itinery for many a family over the summer, especially if you have visitors. Two of Oxford's must see attractions in the same place, with the marvels of nature and mankind on display in engaging & fascinatiing ways. There are always child activity sheets available & this summer there is a Summer Holiday trail to follow.


Museum of The History of Science

With a focus on communication technology the kids and parents can have lots of fun in the Signals & Semaphores workshops and learn a new life skill with morse code.

Read more here 

Science OxfordScience Oxford

Creative science workshops, summer spy & science schools! What's not too like. Well perhaps the kids learning how to bug the living room....but sounds like a lot of fun.

Read more here



Performance & Music Activities

Oxford’s Creation Theatre & Inspiring Drama courses

For anyone looking for a longer term activitiy for the whole family (and admittedly a bit of money to spend) try the;

"Put On A Play Workshop" by Oxford's Creation Theatre Hurry though as it is on next week. Workshops run 10am - 4.30pm, drop off anytime 9am - 10am and pick up 4.30 - 5pm. The play is performed for family & friends at the end of the course.

Read More Here

Or the "Summer Comedy Course" by Inspiring Drama based in Summertown. For ages 10-16 years. Students form production teams and can be in front or behind the camera for this short film course by professional crew.

Read more here

Room on the BroomThe Oxford Playhouse

Each summer the Playhouse ensure they have a child friendly play on & this year's is the magical, musical adaptation of Room on the Broom, based on the bestselling book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Olivier Award-nominated, it has songs, laughs and scary fun for young children and their grown-ups – the perfect summer holiday treat!

Read more here 

Nick Cope's Early Years Music Sessions 

Based in different Oxford locations on different days of the week Nick provides entertaining music sessions singing his own songs that are as much fun for adults as the kids and importantly original. We all know how difficult the 1000th rendition of the "Wheels on the bus" can be...

Read more here

Physical Activities

Running around in the park or garden is all very well but an organised activity can be educational, have the proper equipment and let the adults join in too.

The Ice Rink

Oxford's ice rink deliberately run their "Skate Basics Course"  over the summer so you can start from scratch and be more than competent after a few sessions. Particular good if the weather heats up again. Suitable for ages 5 to 16. The fees include skate hire.

Read more here      

Youth Zone

This is Oxford City Council's website timetable listing of sports activities in Oxford. Including information on the Bungee app which gices up to date information right to your phone. The site covers all our leisure centres, swimming pools including the free swimming lessons.

Read more here

Lasergaming & High Ropes

Based in Culham Adventure park you can get 2 adventures in one with Summer Adventure Days. The full day combines the Lasergaming Battlefield Live experience with the Tree Top, High Ropes Tarzan Assault course. Suitable for 10 years old and up with a height requirement.

Read more here

Build a bikeTrax

Trax is a charity that helps young people develop skills and improve education where the youngsters have struggled in the standard school environment. As a result they run a great range of practical and adventure activities that are also suitable for younger children. We think the bike maintenance and restoration is particularly useful!

Read more here


Exploring Oxford

Oxford is a great city to walk around but the younger audience may need something more than the nice buildings to keep them engaged so here goes.

Oxford Castle Unlocked

Kids go free until September 2nd so this summer is the perfect time to discover more about what used to be a prison and somewhat less recently was at the heart of England's medieval civil war. Let the actors in historical dress enchant the younger ones and inform everyone.

Read more here

The Oxford Visitor Information Centre

Not just for tourists! This is where many of the various walking tours in the city start & end as well as a great way to get up to date information on attactions in one place. The family walking tour which includes a free activity sheet can be booked here.

Read more here

Treasure Trails logoTreasure Trails

If you'd prefer a walk around Oxford without the guide then the Treasure trails company provides trails of various lengths & themed on Spies, Murder Mystery & Treasure Hunt. The trails are charged for but once you have them can be used multiple times and double as a map.

Read more here

Science Bubble Set


Not Going Out

Whether it's a rainy day and you can't face it or everyone is tired from having such a good time it can be great to have time at home. We have plenty of great gizmo's, puzzles, art and experiments that you can do indoors. 

20th July 2015

Tunde's Hungarian Recipes For You

Tunde's Hungarian Recipes For You

Looking for some new cooking inspiration? Here are two delicious and easy recipes by Tunde from our Linens team. Tunde is a published cookbook author in her native Hungary with a couple of editions under her belt. So bring some Hungarian style to your cooking with our own expert cook!


Feta-stuffed Peppers

  • 10 small and long peppers - green, red, orange and yellow,Ingredients:
  • 300 g feta cheese,
  • 2 garlic cloves,
  • 200 - 250 ml good quality olive oil,
  • sea salt,
  • pepper,
  • fresh basil,
  • fresh oregano,
  • olives.

Crush 1 garlic clove and mix it with feta cheese. Cut the top of the peppers, use a small spoon to fill them up with the garlic feta. Pack them tight in a glass or plastic dish with a lid.

Mix the olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper, and some basil, oregano and remaining garlic. Cover the peppers with the oil and put in the fridge for few hours.

Slice the peppers and enjoy with fresh bread or banquette. Remember to make a use of the infused olive oil!

Traditional Apple Cake

For the pastry:

  • 400 grams of flour,
  • 200 grams of cold butter,
  • 1.5 teaspoon of baking powder,
  • pinch of salt.
  • 2.5 tsp. of brown sugar,
  • 1 egg,
  • 1 egg yolk,
  • lemon juice from 1/2 lemon,
  • lemon zest from 2 lemons,
  • 1 tbsp crème-fraiche.

For the filling:

  • 2 kg of apples,
  • lemon juice from 3 lemons,
  • vanilla sugar,
  • cinnamon,
  • sultanas (optional),
  • 1 tbsp. apricot jam,
  • 2 tbsp. breadcrumbs.

For the pastry sieve the flour in a deep bowl. Mix it with the baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add all the remaining ingredients and quickly knead the dough until everything is combined. Wrap it in a foil and put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

For the filling: peel and core the apples and cut them in 4 pieces. Put them in a heavy pot to avoid burning. Add the lemon juice, vanilla sugar and cinnamon. Add the sultanas if you're using them. Cover with the lid and simmer for a while. The time really depends on the type of apples. Cool the apples down

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Roll the pastry and put in the cake pan making an edge. Prick the pastry with fork and drizzle the breadcrumbs on top.

Spread with the apricot jam and add the apples. If they weren't sweet, you can sprinkle some brown sugar on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes and enjoy with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

14th July 2015

How To protect Against Malaria When Travelling Abroad

How To protect Against Malaria When Travelling Abroad

Wherever you travel this year you can never be far from the sort of biting, stinging insects that ruin a good holiday. There are even mosquitos in Britain due to higher temperatures, but luckily so far none of the Malaria carrying kind. If you’re venturing further afield you would do well to seek expert advice from one of our friendly Pharmacists so we thought this blog might be helpful too.

MosquitoMalaria is a very serious disease, but one that we can treat and take steps to lower the risk of catching. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito which passes the malaria parasite (Plasmodium Falciparum) into the bloodstream.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, and nausea, but can take weeks and even months to appear. Nothing is 100% effective but with expert advice from your Doctor or Pharmacist you can greatly reduce your chances of contracting the disease, even if bitten.

While making your travel plans it’s worthwhile doing some health research on the areas that you will be travelling through. We recommend the NHS Fit for Travel Website.

If you discover that you are travelling to an area with Malaria then there is a set procedure to go through to get your antimalarial medication. If you see a Doctor Malaria protection is not normally available on NHS prescription. However, there are exceptions based on certain underlying health conditions in which case the standard £8.20 prescription charge per item is applicable. Unless you also qualify for free NHS prescriptions. Otherwise, a Doctor can make a private prescription which normally costs £15 plus the cost of the medicine.

Malaria PGD form exampleThe cheaper alternative is to ask your pharmacist who will use a “Patient Group Direction Form (PGD)” which contains questions designed to determine which anti-malarial treatment would suit you best. The form costs £12.50 at Boswells. Other pharmacies normally charge between £12.50 and £15.

Please note that if you consult a Nurse or Doctor and they recommend a type of medication without a prvate prescription the PGD is still required.

Here at Boswells of Oxford we provide a private consultation room where you can discuss your travel needs with the Pharmacist in comfort and in confidence. This is available Mon – Sat after 10.30am. Appointments are not necessary although we recommend avoiding lunchtimes.

Jungle FormulaA consultation will include checking your travel location, medical history, age and other circumstances in order to recommend and supply anti-malarial and other travel medicines without the need for that private prescription. A minority of people may still need one of the few types of medication that is prescription only. They would then still need to see a Doctor for a private prescription. However we cannot tell this without going through the PGD.

It is worth noting that the medication is tailored to your specific requirements for your specific current plans. It is not applicable to someone else, even if they are making the same trip.  Any antimalarial you may have taken in the past may not be correct for your current trip. Malaria warnings change frequently, often with the season so we can’t make a recommendation more than 6-8 weeks prior to travel.

Once you have your medication it is VERY important that the full course is completed. This includes before you travel to the malaria risk area and for some time after you have left the area. Therefore the cost of your medication will depend not just on the type of medicine but on how many tablets you need.

Don’t think that just because you have the tablets you don’t need to worry about being bitten. There are sensible preventative measures that you can take to lower your risk. Wearing long sleeves and long trousers after sunset outdoors may be a buzz kill, but better than a buzz bite. Applying insect repellent with a high percentage of DEET regularly on exposed skin is advisable. We have a range of the popular Jungle Formula products and alternatives in our Pharmacy Department.

Those people who prefer to use a more natural product, such as citronella to repel insects, will find Quit Bugging Me Lotion Spray in our cosmetics department. This hydrating lotion helps keep mosquitoes, gnats, horseflies, black and biting flies at bay.

There is little hard scientific evidence that changes to your diet will deter insects from tasting your blood, so we certainly don't recommend relying on this.

Anthisan CreamIf bitten then immediate treatment is recommended. An Anthisan Bite & Sting cream is a traditional treatment, but whether using a cream or not it is important to clean the wound with clean water or even better an antiseptic wipe or spray. Scratching the bite may be tempting, but that raises the possibility of infection.  Keep an eye out for signs of infection which can include increased redness and swelling with pain and perhaps blistering or pus at the bite site. If the bite doesn’t improve after treatment or you see infections signs see a Doctor. Your hotel can often help locate a Doctor for you.

Knowing what weather to expect will aid your packing. Knowing which vaccines/medicines you will need will keep you healthy. As will understanding what protection ’s important to the locals.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, take pictures and leave only memories. Enjoy your travels.

3rd July 2015

Our visit to Headway Oxfordshire

Our visit to Headway Oxfordshire

In June myself and a colleague had a morning out to visit our 2015 charity Headway Oxfordshire. Although we had a lovely time the main reason was to find out for ourselves what Headway Oxfordshire do and meeet some of the staff and most importantly the users of their services. As a reminder Headway Oxfordshire specialises in providing support and rehabilitation services for those recovering from brain injury and to their helpers. You can read more about this previous blog.

Outside Headway officeWhen we arrived at Headway Oxfordshire's office we were slightly surprised because it is actually a Church part of the Diocese of Portsmouth. Turns out that they are in the process of buying the building from the Diocese with church services to continue as before. This initiative is just part of Headway Oxfordshire's expansion plans, more of which later. So after Victoria on the left of the picture greeted us we went straight into the building for a tour.

"My Favourite Day"

There were already service users inside havng a chat and a catch up in preparation for the first of the day's activities, a chair yoga session with a cooking session in the afternoon. Yesterday there had been a picnic at the Botanical Gardens and quizzes, games and trips to the cinema are also favourites. As we discovered when speaking to Sheila and her husband Harry who had a stroke 3 years ago, the interaction with other carers and those in recovery is absolutely vital to them. Harry said it was "my favourite day" and said that it until starting at Headway Oxfordshire 18 months ago he had "felt very isolated". He went on to say that "seeing the improvement of others was vital to me to understand was was possble and inspire me to continue my own hard work". Sheila who is caring for Harry spoke of the ability to have a little time off during the activities in a "perfectly safe" environment and how much that break is needed. Having been married for 31 years the devotion to each other was very clear, but they acknowledged the challenge of dealing with Harry's changed circumstances. His impressive wheelchair had to be privately bought and Headway Oxfordshire was their ONLY opportunity for support after leaving hospital.

Activity BoardLeaving the users to their yoga we chatted to some of the volunteers. Jill has been an unpaid volunteer from its beginnings in 1982. At the time her own son had suffered a traumatic brain injury falling down stairs at home when he was 16 and has needed 24 hours a day supervision ever since. That is a huge adjustment and although her son now lives in a community in Cornwall where he is looked after Jill spent the first 10 years completely on her own looking after her son without a break. So it's not a surprising that she is a warm and passionate advocate of the charity.

 "Can Never Go Back To What They Were Before"

We were particularly taken by Jill's points that the impact of brain injury can be hidden by a superficial glance. Her own son being " a fine figure of a man in his forties and you don't know until you start speaking to him that this is someone who needs special help". Also that Jill has seen "more lives being saved by advances in surgery, resulting in people living for normal lifespans but no plan to help them do so". Which is of course where Headway Oxfordshire and their fund-raisers come in!

Patrick is a long term staff member who apart from arranging the extremely popular quizzes (Harry is a fan) visits a specific person twice a week. He noted that both volunteers and carers have to handle the frustration and even anger of people affected by brain injury who "can never go back to what they were before". There are sometimes actual changes of personality or missing memory as well as the understandable emotional rollercoaster of surviving, but being changed. Naturally this is nearly as traumatic for the carer often a partner or child who knew the person before. As a professional visitor this isn't an issue, but handling emotional outbursts is still very much part of the job. In the case of his client he can work with them on building skills that they just can't do unsupervised, but did every day for 40 years before their injury, helping their self-worth and confidence in the process.  

Headway Oxfordshire are careful to involve carers as much in activities as they want to be involved. The carers weekends away are a blessing for many but a complicated arrangement for the charity as some wouldn't enjoy it without those they care for, whilst others really need a complete break. So the staff are always "trying to find a balance" and "get feedback each time and act on it". They've just had their annual weekend break away, this time in Winchester.

"Headway Oxfordshire Is A Small Charity That Always Needs More Funding"

Physio areaWe moved on to see some of the permanent facilities available to users including some quite sophisticated physiotherapy equipment in a divided area from the main room. This area is naturally always supervised, but is used particularly intensively on Wednesdays when the high dependancy users visit.  Whilst we were there some users were making use of the co-ordination therapy items and having a chat at the same time.

The facility also has a quiet room for private conversations and some offices. In the first office we met Charlotte, Claire and Jamie the CEO of Headway Oxfordshire. So we were able to get a real look at the challenges facing them as well as the opportunities. Jamie noted that "Headway Oxfordshire is a small charity that always needs more funding" and also that "the longer term funding streams tend to come with very specific rules on how they can be spent. This makes the funding raised by companies like Boswells and individual contributions hughly valuable as the money can go as and where needed at that time. Which is why every donation is particularly appreciated."

outreach works in cabinA dependency on grants means that plans can only be made for the length of a grant and often there is a tendering process which can be time consuming. Jamie says "The increased tendering and subsequent monitoring processes have changed charities a lot in recent years. Now charities are more professional, with increased plan quality, but you have to ensure that you stick to the original ethos and provide the needed services rather than be all about meeting funding rules". That rang a bell with us as at Boswells we try to keep close to our customers and keep our identity whilst keeping pace with the modern world.

Part of the challenge to the original Headway Oxfordshire ethos is that although they provide their services for free the number of people who have a brain injury receiving funding has decreased a lot. This is because only those who undergo an assessment and are classified as having a critical or substantial need will now get funding. Many people don't even know about the assessment.

"More Lives Being Saved By Advances In Surgery, Resulting In People Living For Normal Lifespans But No Plan To Help Them Do So". 

Jamie and ambulenceAnother challenge is transport. Most users can't drive and require transport to Headway Oxfordshire. Thus their own ambulance, but this will soon need replacing. However the biggest need is drivers and co-ordinating the journeys across the whole of Oxfordshire to get to Kennington. If you are interested in helping, volunteering as a driver is definitely a good solution. They can even pay your transport costs if you are using your own car.

Another way they have reacted is to open satellite groups around Oxfordhire where users, volunteers and outreach workers can meet. Although the physiotherapy kit is missing at least that vital social interaction, confidence building and peer support can continue.

Even with the funding challenges this is an exciting time for Headway Oxfordshire. The aim of buying the building is the first stage to expand the building and its facilities, including a fully functioning kitchen. At the moment only cold preparation can be done and this isn't just about feeding users, but kitchen re-training for users to look after themselves. The outreach workers who currently share a portakabin may even get room to swing their arms when they walk around the office! The planning permission is already done.

My colleague and I were very moved by our visit and we are delighted that Boswells and its customers can help improve people's lives in this way. It is a sobering thought that accidents that result in brain injury as well as illness can strike anyone at any time. Although Headway Oxfordshire currently supports around 400 people there are actually over 3000 registered people suffering from traumatic brain injury in Oxfordshire. That is a lot of people potentially isolated and with overworked carers who more money can help reach.

If you are interested in helping Headway Oxfordshire then you can donate via Boswells in store or at or by text HWOX01 plus your amount to 70070. Or contact Headway Oxfordshire to become a driver, volunteer for the centre, be a handyman or help with the admin. See what a difference you can make and you won't regret it.