Millie Jones Hair – a review

I’m a really cautious Twitter follower. If someone follows me, I don’t just automatically follow back. I take the time to check out who they are. If they’re not interesting to me (sorry children’s footie clubs in Raynes Park we have nothing in common) I don’t follow back. Controversial maybe, but just the way I am! A few weeks ago I was followed by @milliehair. When I looked I saw they were a new hair salon, Millie Jones Hair, opening in Haslemere. Now this I was interested in. We don’t live in a big place and new local businesses, particularly those of interest to me or my family, are always going to be worth checking out. A new hair salon? It was beyond interesting, I was properly excited.

I don’t know about you, but to me a hairdresser is easy to find but difficult to stay with. When I moved to Swansea it took me a few goes but I eventually stumbled on Paul at Boosh. He listened to me and understood what I was aiming for every time. I was gutted when I had to pack up and come back to England, leaving him and everything else I had come to love in South Wales. I moved to Haslemere four years ago and despite various attempts at various salons I’ve not found someone I liked enough to go back to (except a girl I had in Toni & Guy Guildford. Unfortunately I never seemed to be able to get another appointment with her when I needed it, so I gave up trying the end). For me, its not just about the actual cut (although that is a big part of it). I need to feel comfortable, both with the stylist and in a salon itself. I’ve had terrible experiences where I’ve spent the whole time feeling awkward and uncomfortable, have been made to feel like I was just a number, or worse ignored entirely (when I say NOT a Rachel cut, I mean NOT a Rachel cut). There’s such arrogance in ignoring your client and I can assure you such behaviour has never resulted in repeat business from me.

The Rachel cut. Looked great on her in the mid 90s. Not on me. Ever!

The ‘Rachel’ cut. Looked great on her in the mid 90’s. Not on me. Ever!

Now that I have Oscar, taking time to get my hair cut is more of a luxury than I can explain. So if I get that time and I’m spending what little money I have, I want to enjoy the experience. I want to feel pampered and looked after and I want to be listened to in a comfortable environment. Basically I want the best experience for my time and money. I have tried having my hair cut at home and don’t get me wrong the outcome was great, but it’s just not the same. I love the feeling a great salon visit can give you, so I decided to give Millie Jones a go. Last Saturday.

From the off it was clear this was different to any other salons I’ve visited locally. The decor is cool and relaxing, in shades of monchrome, the waiting armchairs a vibrant pop of red. The bold gold lettering on the wall are minimal and elegant. The salon has around 12 seats, but unlike other salons I couldn’t see any equipment or clutter. I was greeted by Millie herself then shown to my seat and provided with a frothy coffee and magazines. Millie explained to me that her specialism was colour, so Kate would be cutting my hair. We chatted briefly then she left me to my coffee (warm coffee that hasn’t been heated twice in the microwave? What decadence was this??)

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First time I’ve been to a salon and the gown’s fitted me perfectly – happy moment right there!

The salon wasn’t quiet, so much as peaceful, with cool chill out tunes coming through the speakers. This was a far cry from the high energy, non stop noise I’ve experienced in other salons. My hair was washed by a lovely apprentice and we chatted about her career and how glad she was to have found this placement. Then I met Kate, my stylist. I explained that I have been growing my hair for some time now and am happy with the style I have at the moment, having taken forever to grow out layers I was always talked into having. I was concerned that she didn’t take too much off, but enough so that it looked healthy and fresh. Kate is a very experienced stylist (17 years she told me) and was sure to give me the very best of what I’d described, explaining that any new client should stick with a stylist for at least three appointments before changing their style, as it takes that long to get to know both the client and the hair. She used products I’d never come across before – Living Proof from the US. As she rightly noted, my hair doesn’t feel like it looks. People think it’s thick, but it’s actually fine, there’s just a lot of it. So she used their No Frizz Weightless Styling Spray. It not only smelt great, but it also took any frizz out of my fine hair without making it lank (I think I might have to purchase, when I’ve got a bit more money 😉 ) Kate did a fantastic job and I was really pleased with the outcome. Not too much off, and looking really sleek.

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Before I left I chatted with Millie, the owner and colourist. She explained that she’d been in the business for 25 years, working in Mayfair and Knightsbridge and loved what she did, but felt the need for more work life balance (she has two young children). Hence the decision to open her own salon, somewhere where her particularly dedicated clientele could follow her (from all over the South East it would seem!). I guess when you find someone you trust to colour your hair you’ll travel to reach them. Although going back to Swansea might have been a stretch for me!

I left with a great hair cut, feeling relaxed and just a little bit gorgeous. I couldn’t help the odd swish of the hair here and there. I definitely attracted a few glances, although I couldn’t work out if that was because I was looking so good, or because I was swishing my head about!

So big question did I like it there enough to go back? Do you know I think I did. Not only was the cut I got first rate it was the little things I appreciated. Like the mirrors not going from floor to ceiling (I find it really uncomfortable sitting in front of a full length view of myself for an hour!), the chairs that could be raised really high (I’m tall so they normally drop them right down and then sit to cut my hair which is can be quite uncomfortable for me), and the golden coloured spoon that came with the coffee. You know, stuff that has no bearing on the haircut what so ever, but make this an experience you are happy to repeat. And the most important thing for me, was how easily it ‘styled’ when I next washed it (for styled, read blow dried it til dry.) If it looks fab in the salon, but a dogs dinner once you’ve washed it, then really what’s the point? In terms of cost they’re not the cheapest in the area and neither would I expect them to be. You can check out their price lists here. I think they’re on a par with some prices I’ve paid locally and in Guildford and I know I was much happier with the results.

 

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I was given a free haircut in exchange for an honest write up. I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Mama and More

The Hen House – an update

If you are a regular reader you’ll know that several months ago I had a meeting with Henri Paterson, the power house behind The Hen House, the latest excitement in Haslemere. We talked about her vision for this new take on soft play and I wrote about it here. To date it’s one of my most popular posts and is still being read practically every day. On the back of this post, I was then asked to write the copy for The Hen House website, which is now up and running. I’m not a professional copy writer, so I was extremely flattered to have been asked. I was paid for that job, but I can assure you I have not been paid to write this or any other post about The Hen House. The opinions here are all my own. Promise.

If this were just a review I could tell you about prices and times etc, but all that information can be found on their website which I urge you to take a look at! But this is more than that. It’s my interpretation of what this place is or could be for local parents. It’s my opinion based on my experiences. You may not agree, you may have had a different experience. And that’s fine. This is just how I see it.

So, back in April I told you what I knew about the plans for this exciting, and desperately needed new venture. But I couldn’t tell you how it actually worked or whether it was actually any good, as it wasn’t yet open. That changed at the beginning of May. We couldn’t wait to get into the place and find out what this new facility actually meant for us.

Our first visit was on the day after it opened and just as I imagined it would be, it was heaving. It was like the whole mummy population of Haslemere and the surrounding area had heeded the jungle drums, scooped up their toddlers and headed on over. But Wow! I went with my NCT group and we were all so impressed. The children practically threw themselves in joyful abandon at the play frame and squealed with delight at the numerous ride on cars, my favourite of which is the truck. I wish I’d known this chap existed back in April,when we were choosing Oscar’s birthday presents! Everything was just so (pardon the gushing) gorgeous! Yes we couldn’t get a seat but we didn’t care (we got one eventually). We were just as in enamoured as the children – or at least I was. The only thing that I couldn’t get my head round was the letting Oscar run around freely. Partly because it was just so alien to me. But also I spent the whole time looking to check he wasn’t near the gate, as I saw one or two children force it so hard they’d got their heads through and I knew if my son took it upon himself, he’d be able to force his entire body through. Thankfully the gate has since been reinforced, but it’s definitely something they need to keep an eye on. I don’t think the Hen House realised how strong toddlers on a mission could be!

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

That first visit has turned out to be one of many. Too many some might argue. Oscar just loves it there. We’ve been in the week, just the two of us, or with friends (we now reserve a table if there’s going to be a group of us). We’ve been at the weekend with Daddy (Ben was just as keen to check it out as I was and was impressed enough to say he’d take Oscar down on his own – one day 😉 ). Its a venue that seems to lend itself to so many occasions. We’ve had playdates there and attended classes. I’ve drunk copious amounts of (great) coffee and Oscar’s chowed down on fresh sandwiches, tried hummus and eaten a carbonara he loved so much I worried he may actually dive in. I haven’t eaten there myself, (apart from a piece of Red Velvet Cake which you can read about here), as most of the food available, while gorgeous and fresh and locally sourced, doesn’t really fit with the SW plan (the panini’ s look amazing – sigh). I’d love to see more healthy snacks for grown ups. But then I’d like to see that everywhere.

Carbonara to die for

The cute Hen House dishes

In such a short space of time The Hen House, has become something I didn’t really expect. Its become ‘my’ place. By ‘my’ I don’t literally mean mine of course, but it’s a place for me, for people like me, parents, mummies with toddlers. I have lived in Haslemere three and a half years. I have never gone into Costa or any other cafe where I’ve bumped in to someone I’ve known and been asked to join them. Or conversely asked someone I know to join me. But that’s how it is at The Hen House. It’s a space for my ‘tribe’ and I had no idea how little we had this. No one tuts if your child screams (mine does, a lot, he’s ‘learning’ to share), no one pulls the sour lemon face when your child gets their food over themselves/the floor/the table/you. There is a level of understanding I have only ever experienced at toddler groups. Being a stay at home mum (bleugh – I really need to think of another name for what it is I am) can be quite isolating if you don’t push yourself out there, plan, look for things to do. Suddenly here is a place I can go on a whim and know I’ll be welcomed, at any time.

I’ve had great conversations I wouldn’t have done otherwise, gotten to know friends better, met other mothers, been inspired, all thanks to ‘just another soft play’. Because it really isn’t.

If you were to ask me what it actually is I like most about The Hen House it could be tricky to choose. The space, the great coffee, the warm welcome, the fun. But really it’s easy.

Its this

Worn out

All played out

It wears him out. And that’s just dandy by me.

The Hen House

Bit of backstory. Haslemere is a small town, which has expanded over the years to accommodate the growing number of families moving here. Its about an hour from London so still commutable, but far enough away to offer a more rural way of life (or faux rural as my husband likes to call it).

I’ve not lived in Haslemere that long. 3 years actually. But most of that time I have been pregnant or the mother of a small child. Either way I’ve found myself becoming immersed in the parent scene of this small town. I’ve not really had a choice. And I love it. I think I’ve mentioned before how amazing children can be as ice breakers, and how becoming part of this mummy community has been good for me. We share in a way I’ve never experienced before; clothes, advice, experience and information.

So when something new or newsworthy happens to affect our community, well as you can imagine, the jungle drums start to beat. And when I received a shared link on FB a few weeks ago telling me about a new soft play cafe opening in the town I was beside myself and was quick to share the information.

What I saw was this.

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And this is what I said about it.


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Soft play. Even the name can conjur up images of dirty, bleak industrial units decked out with ball pits and foam slides, all marinated in the smell of frying chips. I can’t prove it (of course) but I swear Oscar got the sickest he’s ever been after a session at one such soft play venue and after conversations with other parents I’m not alone in this concern. So OK I get that kids, particularly older children, don’t care what a place smells like or how dirty the equipment may be or how crap the coffee is. Sometimes they just want to hurl themselves around for a hour. And that’s grand. But I know my friends and I have all said at one time or another, wouldn’t it be nice to have somewhere, we could take the children, they could have a rare old time of it and we could have a relax, without coming away with the gifts of Rotavirus and Eau de Chipfat.

So when I received the link, telling me a new kind of soft play was coming to my local high street. Well. I’m hoping you can imagine just how excited, but cautious I was. Was this really something I was right to get my hopes up about? I shared it myself and started the discussion. Suddenly the buzz was off the computer screen and in the toddler groups and the parks and literally on the streets. The name was whispered in hushed tones, or shouted from the roof tops, eitherway, the local community seems as excited by the Hen House as I am. I had to know more than the sweet but basic holding page would tell me, so I contacted them.

Enter Henri.

Henrietta Paterson is a local mother of five (yup five children, three under the age of five). As she explained to me she has no background in this sort of thing (in her previous life she was a Venture Capitalist, living in the Far East). When she and her family moved back to the UK and unexpectedly had two more children, she decided not to go back to working in the city. However, as she explained, she wanted to do something. How it came about is as random as all good inspiration should be. On chatting to the staff at Applegarth she discovered that their previous plans to build a soft play had been shelved. “I offered to help them, but it just wasn’t something they were interested anymore” Henri told me “Once I started thinking about it though, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I was sick of having to go all the way to Farnham for soft play. I mean what was there was OK, but I felt it could be so much better”.

And with that particular bee in her bonnet, The Hen House was born. Henri’s real bug bear with traditional soft play is that whilst it might be fun for the children, they really aren’t that much fun for the adults and on this point I have to agree. The vision for The Hen House is to provide somewhere the kids can have a wonderful time, and the parents can relax, knowing the children are in a safe and clean environment.

The idea of safety is really being addressed here. There are two levels of security gate, including an electronic one. All staff are DBS (CRB) checked and those who work with the children are all qualified in childcare in some way or another. The Hen House will also have a rule of washing and sanitizing hands on entry, something you don’t always see at these places.

It’s clear on talking with her that Henri is enthusiastic about the new place and it’s lovely to see someone so fired up about something that will benefit the local community. As she explained to me, when she encountered resistance from the council when applying to change the usage of the building, the local retail community rallied round her. They know that having a facility that encourages people into the town will be good for their businesses too! Add to that the plan to provide a bookable creche facility, leaving parents free to shop in peace for up to TWO hours? Well. How could the council ever refuse?!

Henri very kindly showed me round the building when we met. It’s bigger than it looks from the outside, and although it is still currently full of builders and building equipment, she was able to paint me a really clear picture of what is going to go where. There will be a toddler area for running around and a baby zone as well as the soft play equipment. There is also a separate room to be used for classes such as Toddler Cookery, Little French and the ubiquitous Molly Moo Cow. Henri sees the room as a real resource, as it will also be bookable, along with it’s disco floor for children’s parties.

The bit I liked the sound of best is the cafe. The food provided will all be locally sourced where possible, made fresh on site and be healthy and as tasty as possible. As Henri was at pains to tell me, none of it will be fried! Not only is this music to my ears from a gastronomic point of view, it also means you wont leave stinking of old chip fat. The plan is to provide something for everyone from Paninis to baby purees. And decent coffee! The craziest thing (or the best thing you might argue!), she that is currently in the process of being granted a liquor licence! She plans to sell wine, beer & fizz (no hard stuff), because as she said to me “sometimes you just need a little something” Quite!

So, yes I was as impressed with Henri as I was with the idea of the The Hen House. It was wonderful to meet someone with such drive to make something work. She was also incredibly open to discussion and suggestion, leaving me feeling confident about the ability of the Hen House to become a real community facility, one we can all enjoy and use to it’s full potential. She has asked that anyone with ideas or suggestions email her hen@thehen-house.com. Although please don’t ask about the parking. Yes you will have to pay to use the “Waitrose” carpark and no she wont be refunding parking.

Something else she was at pains to explain is that there isn’t a set opening day yet. They are currently waiting for variable things to happen (such as a the floor to dry and the equipment to arrive). But it’s likely to be May time and announcements will be made on Facebook or you can sign up for notifications on their website.

This isnt a review, it can’t be. I haven’t let my son loose on the equipment and been able to sit back and enjoy or had to run after him. Haven’t seen whether he likes it or finds it claustrophobic (like he does at the Herons). Haven’t left him with the creche and been able to enjoy a quiet lunch with my husband (Ben’s first reaction when he saw the webpage). Haven’t tasted the food and decided whether this is value for my hard earnt buck. I can’t tell you if it’s ever so ever so good yet.

But I can’t wait to find out.

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