Vegan Birthday Burgers at O’Joy Wellness Bistro, Shrewsbury – Review

It was my birthday recently (no singing, please, no really, it’s fine) and usually it’s the biggest non-event of the year! It’s right smack bang in the middle of a host of family birthdays. Moreover, most family members are often on holiday and we’ve usually already had Mum here for her July birthday, which generally means I don’t see anyone. And to be honest – I’m not telling any family secrets here – my husband is not the most imaginative or proactive when it comes to birthdays or presents or surprises of any kind. It’s just not in his DNA.

Flowers from Mum


Consequently, when he asked a few days beforehand what I’d like for my birthday, I thought I would prevent the inevitable purchase of some kind of gadget I would never use in a million years and ask for the kitchen to be painted! It is long long overdue, and this is what I opened on birthday morning:


I had told him what shade I’d like – Apple White – but he thought he’d give me a choice!

I had been cooped up for so long with the floor restoration going on and the decorators before that, so I had hoped we could go out somewhere, but when I got up the weather was cold, wet and grisly and I resigned myself to staying indoors. With my dodgy back, I rarely go anywhere, seating is always a problem. I am used to this, but sometimes I can go out in the warmer summer weather, when we take a picnic and drive around the countryside to see where we end up. (Last year it was Wroxeter – A Roman City on A Beautiful Summer’s Day. )

I mentioned as much to my husband, who suggested we go to a lakeside café he and his cycling pals sometimes stop at, but it wasn’t somewhere I could confidently get food or drink to suit my vegan, gluten- and nightshade-free habits – see last summer’s post Chillin’ on a Chilly Afternoon with Chilli and you’ll see what I mean – so I decided to Google vegan cafés in the area in the hope we could go out for lunch, something I have done only once in 30 years.

We came across O’Joy Wellness Centre & Bistro in Shrewsbury. As I read about it, I remembered that the BBC’s ‘DIY SOS’ and ‘The Big Build’ presenter, Nick Knowles, became co-owner of a vegan restaurant after staying at a retreat in Thailand and subsequently adopting a vegan lifestyle. The centre also offers counselling and psychotherapy. I hadn’t realised it was in Shrewsbury. The photos looked promising, the seating looked manageable, with my back cushion. We phoned them up to get directions and they told us where we could park.

Needless to say, we got lost! Again. No, we still don’t have a Sat Nav, but I aim to rectify that in a few weeks when it’s His Nibs’ birthday! So many new roundabouts with rubbish signage! My husband reckons the highways people expect everyone to have sat navs these days and so anything beyond a basic N, S, E or W is redundant!

IMG_3812We found the bistro eventually, having turned left when we should have turned right! A dark blue frontage and ceiling, rustic oak tables, cheerful yellow chairs and welcoming young and friendly staff greeted us on what had degenerated into a typical chilly blustery Shrewsbury day. We were shown to our table at the back, for which I was grateful as the door was kept open and I was cold. Our bubbly, smiley waitress waited patiently as we sorted out which chair was best and put my cushion in place. She asked if I would prefer to sit over the other side where there was a bench with lots of plump cushions, but I was fine and didn’t want to cause any further fuss.

We later noticed a large sign asking patrons to order at the counter during the day, but the place was quiet when we arrived and the staff seemed happy to wait on us.

Here’s what I ordered:


Everything is vegan and there are gluten-free options, like the bun with this burger. The Green Goddess salad originally came with croutons, but they were happy to replace them with toasted sunflower and sesame seeds. The raw carrot cake was gluten-free. I also had the Green Monster Burger with sweet potato fries, my husband had tomato and roasted red pepper soup, Cajun burger, and gluten-free raw brownie. There was a selection of herbal, fruit and green teas as well as smoothies and soft drinks.

We must have been there two and a half hours! People came and went, some with young children, ordering falafels or dips and pitta bread; others meeting friends and ordering tacos; all ate at leisure and no-one was rushed out the door. The place has a cosy feel to it and the staff were lovely. When I returned from the washroom, my husband had paid the bill and we said goodbye to our waitress who wished me a happy birthday and laughed at the look of surprise on my face. She had asked my husband what our plans were for the rest of the day and he said it was my birthday, so anything was possible. She replied we should have told her and they would have put a candle on my cake! There was no sign of Nick, he mustn’t have got the memo;-)

I had a lovely day and I was so full, I actually didn’t eat again until lunchtime next day, other than a small juice for breakfast. My husband came home and had to sleep it off for three hours!

Birthday girl:


Oh, and the kitchen is being painted as I type:


Copyright: Chris McGowan

Two Beds, A Birthday & A Bouquet of Flowers

If you’ve read The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force! you might be interested in how things turned out, after the parquet was restored – that is, how the room was finished, and Mum and the family’s reaction.

Here is the finished room:

It is no mean feat decorating and furnishing a room that has to be used by toddlers, teens, twenty-somethings and my 87 year old mum! In its previous incarnation, it was painted in aqua and mostly used by the older boys, but more recently, it is increasingly used to sleep in by my youngest grand-daughter and my mum. The boys these days come on day-trips and mostly use it as a bolt-hole once they’ve raided the fridge on arrival!

They wanted white walls – but they’ve been brainwashed by their minimalist mother! My grand-daughter likes purple!! But she is three. I opted for a very pale yellow.  I find yellow welcoming and uplifting but not so energising that you can’t sleep. It makes me smile.

My mum hates yellow.

She also dislikes wooden floors.

She was coming for her birthday visit and things were not looking promising.

There was the problem of the bed. The old bed had been our daughter’s: it was her half of the set of pine bunk beds she shared with her brother. All the grandchildren and my mum had used it. It had a memory foam mattress and was very comfortable. However, when my husband took it apart, we were appalled to find that it was cracked around one of the bolts holding it together and a slat was also cracked. I dread to think what could have happened when Mum used it. It was time it retired.

We thought we had come up with the perfect solution and were very proud of our find: a wooden bed that had a trundle bed underneath so the younger boys no longer had to sleep on the floor, and 3 storage drawers. The existing mattress fit perfectly, I bought a new duvet cover and some colourful cushions. But as soon as I saw the completed construction, I knew it was too high for Mum. It was the night before she was due to arrive when the room was not quite completed, but enough that she could use it. There was no option but to cross our fingers and hope that our only other alternative would work if my fears proved correct.

She loved the floor. She spent some time admiring it and asking questions. We told her the whole story of how we’d discovered it, the difficulties in restoring it and how long it had taken. She listened and ackowledged. We were prepared for the next question but it still made us laugh:

‘What kind of carpet are you going to put over it?!’ Oh, Mum. Every one of our neighbours is green with envy at our new floor. The rest of the family love it. Only Mum would want to carpet over it. It’s a generational thing. For her, wooden floors are associated with having a low income, you had bare boards or at best lino over it. Fitted carpets were the height of luxury and meant you were in a higher income bracket. She really can’t understand our fascination with wood. She likes the feel of carpet. We put a rug by her bed (backed by non-slip underlay) and she was ok.

The next hurdle was the colour.  I was ready for her next question: ‘What colour is this?’ ‘Vanilla, Mum, vanilla ice-cream,’ I lied. ‘Oh, right, it’s very nice.’

And so to the final hurdle, the bed. I could sense her nervousness and building anxiety as she looked at it and I stepped in to reassure her. I acknowledged that it was too high and we weren’t able to change it, but we had a suggestion: my husband would dismantle the single bed upstairs and bring it down for the duration of her stay. This we did and will have to do every time she comes to visit. One final final problem (or so I thought): she  couldn’t have it positioned with the headboard in the alcove under the window as she didn’t feel comfortable getting in and out of bed on that side. (At this point, there was no chest of drawers in the alcove). So it had to be positioned with the headboard in the middle of the room.


But we were still not done with the bed issues. I took one look and said to my husband, ‘I know what’s going to happen, the pillows are going to slip through the gap in the headboard and end up on the floor.’ My husband was of a mind to cross our fingers once more and see, we might get away with it.

Of course, we didn’t! So next day, he found a large piece of cardboard and attached it to the headboard with bicycle ties! Not the look I was going for, but it worked!

She slept well in it and was happy with the arrangement.


Mum had a quiet birthday, watching her new André Rieu dvd, eating Carrot, Apple & Spice Cakes with Cashew Frosting and curry (not together!)


Mum’s birthday was complete when she received flowers from my brother who has recently emigrated to the US, she was convinced she would never receive flowers from him again – or indeed, see or hear from him.


The day after her birthday, she was returning home, but not before the Littles arrived to see Gran on her birthday, and to inspect their new room. They loved it! They especially liked the pull-out trundle bed and all the drawers with their toys in.

We can never have much of an overlap of visits by Gran and great-grandchildren as there is too much potential for tripping over racing toddlers and racing cars! Also, these days Mum tires easily and her deafness means she can never follow the conversation. So we keep visits short, just time for lunch together and then my husband took her home, while I got to spend the afternoon reading stories as well as catching up with my oldest grandson, newly returned from working in France – oh, and given there was no Gran or daughter-in-law present, we took a sneaky look at the Tour de France too!


Ps The painting by the window was done by my eldest grandson when he was still at school and the stars above the picture rail were made by my three year old grand-daughter, who gave them to me for Christmas. The boomerang above the door was a gift from our Aussie friends to our son when he was small and has been there since we moved here 30 years ago when he occupied this room. There is a smaller one above the door in our daughter’s old room. No-one can bring themselves to remove them, a small part of them is still ‘home’.

Copyright: Chris McGowan


For Ruthie: on Your Non-Birthday!

imageToday is my beautiful, intelligent and talented daughter’s birthday (I’ll spare her blushes and omit her age). She won’t be celebrating it, however, as she leaves for work at 7am before her family are up and running and won’t get home until a rushed dinner, after which she has a parents’ meeting at school!

She does so much for everyone else, helping, advising, often pulling out all the stops with a hand-made present (see my quilted sofa cover below), but resists all attempts by us to arrange something for her.*


So this is my ‘surprise’ (for which read ’embarrassing and mortifying shock’ if/when she sees it!) I wrote this poem a long time ago when I was very ill in bed and dependent on a lot of personal help. Ruth was pregnant at the time, but still managed to come long distance to give me moral as well as practical support. She’ll never know how much her visits meant.

It’s not very good in poetic terms (I’m more than a little embarrassed myself to be putting it out in the world!) I was probably as high as a kite on painkillers and anti-depressants at the time (I no longer take them: juicing, herbal remedies and a healthy plant-based diet are far more effective).

I don’t know if she has ever seen it.

Fortunately, if she does read it, I will already be on my health hiatus, having back treatment and a break from my blog. I will. E incommunicado, so hopefully I’ll be able to dodge the fall-out!

For Ruth

My darling Ruth,

I have tried and failed

so many times

to put into words

– in just a few lines –

what your being here

means to me.


With your sparkling eyes

and your giggling laugh,

your sense of fun

has lifted me up

when I felt so down

and my future

so difficult to see.


You listen, amused,

while I chide your habits

of shopping and spending,

as you wash my hair

and change my bedding

or bring me cups

of warm green tea.


I’m amazed, but glad,

that you come back home,

excited and pleased

to just sit and chat

or be chivvied and teased,

and watch tv,

for without you

I couldn’t be me.


‘Thank you’ is never enough to express the gratitude I feel towards my son and daughter for all the support they have given and continue to give.  Apologies if this is a bit mushy, K and R – I’m your mother, it’s allowed!

Lights blue touch paper and retires…

*(Update: After much persuasion, she reluctantly agreed to a family Cornish cream tea party at the weekend! Sadly, I and my bad back missed out, but I was given a running commentary via photos and videos throughout the afternoon. The highlight was the two toddlers enjoying their ride in the Morris Minor, giggling the whole way – oh, and the ginormous chocolate orange jaffa cake our son made for my husband who was also celebrating his birthday:


(Credit, my son)

The middle orange layer was made with freshly extracted orange juice.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Mum’s Birthday Trip Out – A Day Late

This isn’t a sad tale – it has a happy ending – but I need to set it in context, so please bear with me.

imageThe 16th July is a sad day in our family as it is the anniversary of the death of my brother, aged 22, in a terrible accident far away from home. It is also a day that is slap bang in the middle of several family birthdays, mine and my son’s included, which makes it difficult to celebrate them without an undercurrent of guilt and sadness.

It was my mum’s birthday last Friday, the 15th, she was 86. We usually try to bring her to ours to help keep it special and her distracted so she’s not home alone thinking about Dave. She rarely gets out, other than to the local corner shop and on the community bus to Asda, and misses her trips to the coast and to local markets.

We had planned lunch out, but the weather was awful, typical St Swithin’s Day weather (legend has it that the day he was buried, the heaven’s opened in floods of tears and that’s been the way ever since on this day). It was cold, windy, dark and rainy.

imageSo, Mum opened her cards and presents and was all set to sit at home, do her crosswords and watch the rain. However, my daughter had sent her a garden centre gift card and we had given her a new bird feeder, so we persuaded her to go to the local garden centre and buy some birdfeed and whatever else she needed. She took some persuading, resigned as she was to a quiet day doing nothing in particular, but she went.


  She has restricted mobility so getting her in and out of the car is quite a mean feat and walking is limited. But she came back pleased to have got her bird feed, a gorgeous purple African violet – the last thing my brother bought her (this one will no doubt go the way of all the others and be dead this time next year!) and some little gifts for her neighbours. My husband made a vegetarian curry for dinner and at her request, they had apple pie for dessert – she didn’t want cake and candles. We hoped for better weather next day.

Nope. The weather gods were busy elsewhere. Husband and I despaired. This was terrible. He had planned a trip to the local canal junction to see the boats, feed the ducks, have an ice-cream. Mum and Dad used to spend holidays on the Norfolk Broads, and despite being a non-swimmer, she loved being on a boat and we knew she would enjoy this.

However, after a couple of hours and with a break in the drizzle, I suggested we take a picnic – we could always eat it in the car if necessary – get in the car and see what happens, if it pours down we can turn around and come home, but at least she will have been out, seen some countryside and would have something to tell her neighbours.

I silently asked Dave if he could help with the weather and we set off in the direction of the canal junction.

Lo and behold, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun – yes, the sun! – came out. Whoopee! Here are some pics of Mum’s Birthday Trip out, which she said she enjoyed every minute of. She saw the boats, watched the ducklings and had her ice-cream. She was tired, but all smiles at the end of the day.

And I’m sure Dave had something to do with it. Thank you, we miss you.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan