Wednesday, 29 February 2012

...And then there was a weekend in London (Part III)

Carrie and I opted to walk towards the City of London (on the ‘wrong’ side of the river), I don’t know where you end up if you step off the bridge and turn right… Perhaps that will be for next time. We walked and walked, and then walked some more. Sometimes chatting about nothing and everything, and sometimes just enjoying the companionable silence and the sun on our faces/ backs (depending on the direction).

The Old vs. The New (Just not sure what that 'new' building is.
You can never have too many poorly taken tourist shots.
We got all the way to Tower Bridge before realising that we needed to get all the way back. Neither of us fancied the tube, so we turned on our heels and set off again.

It turned out to be a very long walk. Four miles actually. But we didn’t mind, who would have thought London air could have been quite so refreshing. We weren’t the only ones to think like this. The riverbank was banked, and every bench or wall in the sunshine was crammed – as well as outside eating areas for pubs and restaurants. It seemed everyone was in a good mood.
How many Londoner's in one sunny space?

I also saw something I’d never seen before. Well, two things actually. First the controversial newaddition to the London skyline, which is set to be Europe’s tallest building (That’s sure to put us on the map…).

 Personally I think it’s quite impressive. But I wouldn’t fancy being the window cleaner employed there. It would be like the mammoth task of painting the golden gate bridge… once you got to the top it would be time to start all over again.

No thank you, I think I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground. Or maybe they’ll hang a hose and a soapy brush out the side of a helicopter. I would quite enjoy watching that I think. And then enjoy watching the expression when I tell the pilot he missed a bit.
It's like a massively tall greenhouse - it better have good air con for the 'summer'.

And I must share this with you on account of its ingenuity. Have you ever seen anything so remarkable? Massive L.A.D points to the person who invented this. It’s not a car. It’s not a bike. But you can cycle on the road, use the cycle lanes (and hold up traffic) all whilst drinking because technically sober person drives whilst you cycle your little legs off to provide the engine power.

We saw two. A team of girls wearing pink sparkly cowboy hats and the lads following up the rear with tins of Fosters and Kings of Leon playing. It was a beautiful moment.

That was with 'zoom'... I could have walked into the road for a better shot if you'd have preferred.

I vowed to rent one for my birthday in June. Who’s in?

After walking for such a long distance we’d definitely earned food. The honey roasted cashew nuts just weren’t enough (although they were delightfully yummy). We perched our bottoms at a table outside the Southbank centre, at Giraffe. In the sunshine with a chilled bottle of Rose, what more could you ask for?

Well a foot massage would have been quite nice, or the England rugby team – but it was very pleasant without.

Wine on an empty stomach is never a particularly good idea, especially when staggering your drinking for a night out, and we’d probably got sunstroke (let’s face it, all Britons over react when some usual weather occurs!)

We left the restaurant a little merry, but prepared for a great night out in Clapham Junction.

All we had to do was select an outfit. As women with too many clothes, this was going to take a while….

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

...And then there was a weekend in London (Part II)

Carrie and I woke early Saturday morning. I’d managed to convince myself that she’d already got out of bed and made coffee, but this had in fact been a dream. There was no coffee in the house.

I may not have woken to the warming smell of caffeine, but there was bright sunlight streaming through the windows. It was 8am... quite possibly the earliest she and I have been awake. Ever. Oh, there may have been an occasion at University when we stumbled in at 8am but that’s an entirely different story. But that could have been someone else. Sections of University life remain a bit of a blur.

As we’d agreed, we made our way out to Notting Hill Gate, ready to fight the masses to meander down Portobello Road. Secretly I hoped that someone might throw orange juice over me, but since I am not an international film star, I think the awkward romance would be amiss, and it would instead result in a heated confrontation along the lines of “...Why don’t you watch it, mate?”

I took the standard photographs of the road signs – you shall never remove the tourist from my inner-self. But I was able to be a little more subtle than the hoards of Spanish groups ( you could tell from their guide books to 'Londres'... top notch observation skills. MI5 here I come!) .
Although I had the added advantage of subtlety I was snapping away on my iPhone rather than my super duper makes-your-bed-too camera. (It of course doesn’t do that, but it does so much more than just take a photograph that I haven’t even learnt it all yet.)
It had to be done.

Upon arrival at the beginning of the market in the sunshine (it was so amazing), we were greeted by the musical talents of many buskers. Did you know Portobello Market is one of the only markets in London where you do not need to acquire a license to perform? but don't try to sell EP’s, otherwise the market officials hunt you down. Don't say you weren't warned.

If you get a spare moment, break away from this blog (but come back to to it if you will) and pay a visit to this band
Not only did they (The Robbie Boyd band) have prime position on the market; one of the first available free spaces and on the sunny side of the road , they had also attracted a large crowd of spectators. Each of them was smiling and bopping along to the sweet sounds. Check them out, I’m sure you’ll understand why.

Also , pay a little visit to see this band (they also played sweet melodies at the markets and plenty of venues around London town...)  Another of my favourites. Check them out at local gigs.
So Carrie and I are wandering in the pleasant sunshine on this Saturday morning. We perused many little vintage stalls and markets, and we couldn't help but think again of bumbling Hugh Grant and his house with the blue front door, and that lovely British film.
“Then suddenly it’s the weekend..”

It was.

“...And from the break of day, hundreds of stalls appear out of nowhere, filling Portobello Road right up to Nottinghill Gate...”

He (or rather Richard Curtis) is right.

“…And thousands of people buy millions of antiques, some genuine…”

Now there were some beautiful pieces...

“…And some not so genuine.”

...I did see the same locket twice. I’m even actually pretty sure they were identical even. Definitely not an antique – more likely an aged copy.

I could quite happily have lost myself amongst that market for hours. Looking at all the beautifully hand-beaded silk dress, animal skin handbags (definitely touched one that was totally unaffordable and should never have been on a market stall) and the pewter tankards. Not quite sure what the obsession with pewter was, but there was plenty of it around. And I stupidly didn’t have the sense to ask – so that shall remain unanswered until next time…

Unless of course, one of you fancies a little investigating adventure, and a reason to visit The Hummingbird Bakery . Mmmm. Yum. The smell of sweet sickly things was almost enough to make me wander in, but instead I resisted and drooled at the window.

Carrie and I didn’t walk as far as the end. We got to the Kurt Geiger shop by the food stalls, had a browse and then wandered along the route back, looking at the opposite side of the road.
And passing (for the second time) the strange busker playing Meatloat 'Bat out of Hell' from a CD player, with plastic guitar (not disimilar to that of a Guitar Hero tool), wearing one flipper and surrounded by a random assortment of objects. He was collecting monetary offerings from the public in a trainer.
I feel that in London, people accept these things are fairly normal and refrain from asking questions.
And the tourists swarmed.
Quite what you're El Chico would have to say about this when you returned home to Spain, I don't know.

So content were we with walking and spending little/no money we decided to continue our walking adventures and jump aboard the tube to Embankment.

We alighted, dawdled across the Millennium Bridge, with the obligatory stop to photograph the river down towards St Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin. I’m sure there are many tourists across the world with identical photos, and I really don’t mind if mine matches any of those.

Because there will be many more adventures to come with a half decent camera…just not necessarily on this trip.

Monday, 27 February 2012

...And then there was a weekend in London (Part I)

Friday was a standard day at work I must say. Nothing even remotely out of the ordinary, except that I booked a train ticket to Balham. Lovely Balham which is feeling more like my home from home each time I pack a weekend bag and pay it a little visit.

To be more precise I actually pay Carrie a visit, and to be honest when she lived in Clapham Common I said the same thing about there too. So in actual fact I think South London is my home from home and I’m harbouring not-so-secret desires about moving there.

But enough of that -  The move is some way in the distance yet, on account of having an incurable shopping addiction and a limited resource of pennies.

Anyway, I drove home at the speed of light, hastily threw an assortment of clothes in a wheelie bag (previous trips have taught me that excess walking makes a shoulder bag uncomfortable and impractical). I prayed that there was enough variation to make an outfit or two to get me through the weekend’s frivolities.

Like my day, the journey up was uneventful. However I should like to ask for some clarification the etiquette regarding asking other travellers to turn down their music in a carriage not marked ‘quiet zone’. I know I have covered this in previous entries, but it still remains a little undecided. Should I have turned to the ignorant man behind me and asked him to turn down his mp3 player of choice? If I wanted to listen the beautiful melodies of garage, R’n’B and hip hop like he did then I would have brought my own. But alas, I did not and nor did I want to listen to the ‘tss tss tss tss...’ for the journey. 

I didn’t turn around and say anything. And neither did anyone else. But when the refreshment trolley came through the carriage and offered him drinks and snacks, he didn’t have any money. I almost offered to purchase him an overpriced caffeine fuelled beverage in exchange for silence. Unfortunately he found some loose change before I had the chance to turn around in my seat.

I arrived in Balham quite content and warm, for Friday was a balmy night in London, and waited at crossroads outside the station for Carrie. She was in Sloane Square for leaving drinks and arrived a little merry, I was keen to join her in this state. We dumped my bag at Chez Carrie – a top floor maisonette shared with three or four of the other sex (I can’t confirm numbers since I have never seen them all in the same room) and another female companion, and made our way out in to the night.

Destination? Balham Bowls Club.

Yes my friends, I too wondered what this venue would have in store, since I  (like you) associate Bowls with retired people and green lawns – never to be confused with bowels, which could lead to all manner of bizarre conversations with the elderly.

But we walked in to a packed array of quirky rooms, each decorated with the flair of yester-year. A very homely and welcoming pub (which serves fantastic looking food). Carrie and I were unable to locate a couple of chairs inside so decided, that whilst it was warm and not raining, we would move our beverages (a bottle of house red – don’t mind if I do) outside. We propped ourselves up against the wall and were the only people without a cigarette. Having never wanted to light up in my life, I was overwhelmed by a brief and fleeting desire to stand with a lit cigarette in one hand and wine glass elegantly poised in the other. Thankfully it passed before I could act upon it; it seemed that the smoke was doing enough to make me feel like one of the cool kids.

The only downside to moving to London is that I will have to practise ‘freezing’ my face when it comes to paying at the bar. After the wine disappeared (and we had moved inside, the temperature dropped quite quickly) we opted for another favourite of mine, the good old gin and tonic. I’d love to say that I can tell the difference between our array of widely available gins, but I would of course be lying. So I won’t.

I stood at the emptying bar and made my request, “Double?” the young lady serving me asked. “Oh why not,” I thought to myself, “Yes please, with a slice of lime too.” She dutifully obliged and told me how much it was. It took every fibre of my being to stop my chin from hitting the bar top and creating a scene. I know that by London prices it was very reasonable, but when you come from the suburbs on the south coast, it’s a shock.

I paid, left, and returned to Carrie. Now a fully integrated Londoner (she knows the tubes and bus routes without checking a map), she shrugged and sipped her gin.

It got late and Carrie suggested locating a food serving establishment. Red wine and gin does not form the base of a nutritious diet so we found a kebab shop. It was run by some lovely Greek men, who were extraordinarily busy and dealing with a large number of hungry drunk people. We joined a growing queue. Next to us were two Irishmen who had a hard time believing that Carrie’s transatlantic tones were Bermudian. It was one of many stages in life where Carrie has had to convince strangers of her childhood home. Soon they got bored debating with her and stepped outside to eat their now-cold kebab in a polystyrene box.

I can’t recommend it, purely for the fact that I don’t remember what it was called and I probably would only suggest going when inebriated because let’s face it, your tastebuds don’t care what they’ve got. But it was on the Balham High Road, opposite Waitrose (that’s how you know Balham is posh!) and it makes crackin’ chips. I opted for a little salad and garlic sauce with mine, just to get in some of the government backed 5-a-day.

We clambered into bed a little after three am. Fed, drunk and happy, we vowed to get up early to be at Portobello Road market.

My weekend of London adventures were only just beginning.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

...And then I realised that a lot of time had passed.

February 3rd? Are you having a laugh? Really? That was the last time I wrote.

And I was doing so well.
Apparently I can't keep promises.

So it's been a busy couple of weeks. I can't tell you what's been achieved in the time that I haven't been writing - because I don't have anything to show for it.
But that doesn't mean that I was doing nothing.

I think I spent a lot of it sleeping.
Do you ever have those moments where great sheets of tiredness creep up on you and no matter how much sleep you have it never goes away?
Just me.
Well I think that's what I was doing.

I was also trying to make myself a better person. I shouldn't really say 'was' because I'm pretty sure I'm still doing it. An ongoing project some might say. And yes... I even bought my first 'self help' book. Its quite inspirational, was recommended to me by a friend, but I couldn't bring myself to endure the mocking from standing infront of those shelves in a particular corner of the book store. So I ordered it online.
I've read the first page. But what inspirational words they were.

Then I procrastinated from my helpful book and decided that I knew a better way to help myself.

There was a wardrobe declutter (or perhaps massacre is a fairer term), an enrolment onto a journalism course, a series of events planned (thank you Vogue open day), and a busy social life until mid-march. So I'm packed up with things to do.
Please note that 'gym' was left off here.
And also the beginners ballet lessons which I started on a whimsical New Years resolution and have turned out to be the most dispiriting decision ever made. What good is a ballet dancer, beginner or not, who cannot get both feet off the ground?
I knew I shouldn't have cried on my first trial lesson, where as a small child I begged Mumma not to take me back. I could probably be a world famous ballerina now. But ah, c'est la vie, it was not to be.

After my elephant-in-a-tutu lessons finish, I'm going to give salsa lessons a go. Who knows, maybe this British bird has a little spanish blood in her...And maybe, just maybe I'll be a little better at moving my hips than pointing my toes and holding my tummy in and standing one leg ALL at the same time.
Or it might be another mad impulse decision.
But this exercise (dancing and running on a treadmill like a loon) have been left off because I don't think its making me a better person... just a person with a larger lung capacity and better muscle tone.
Note - these effects are only apparent when I practise or regularly attend the gym, otherwise it's pretty redundant.

I guess to better myself, I need to do something challenging, rewarding - something I've never done before.
Any ideas?
I'm all dried up.

I've spent the last couple of weeks in a process of reviewing. It's been two years since I left my little bubble at University. Two years since I shut the door on my lovely little home in Exeter and handed over my key.
And like the weeks that I have been missing from here, I've achieved nothing.
I have little to show for myself other than additional pairs of shoes, a disgusting addiction to prestige fashion magazines  and my desk job.
There's a plan of action afoot. I'm a mission to improve this situation.

And step one (in the true essence of 'me') was to visit the shops. In order to better myself, I must reinvent myself. Cut myself loose from the drudgery of my over-familiar wardrobe and the remaining rubbish left in it (I couldn't ditch everything on account of having to be naked 24/7 until such a time I found replacement clothing.).
I visited the shops this evening and paid £3.40 to park (When did that go up? It's not like there's a man specifically guarding my car and making sure that no mothers with pushchairs smash my wing mirrors). I wandered, gingerly touching beautiful fabrics and colours, mentally trawling through the well thumbed glossy pages of Vogue and Elle, to replicate the 'look', that aesthetic I crave.

I blew a vast amount of money (thanks mastercard.) And continued to peruse more shops for additional items.
However, then I realised how much I have planned over the next month. I calculated an estimate (hooray for mental maths - aka phone calculator) for my next month's social agenda and panicked.
I'd gone a little mad.

I returned to the store and chose to ask for a refund on the items I'd purchased less than forty minutes ago. Never in my life have I felt so judged and ashamed.
I knew that the sales assistant thought I was some out-of-control shopaholic with debts coming out of her ears. In a less dramatic form, I am. But it was not for her to judge. (if she did not judge then I am sorry for raising a non-apparent issue)

I miserably walked back to the car. Angry at no one  but myself for wishing that clothes made me happy. They don't.

So friends, I beseech you. It seems that I am incapable of purchasing and keeping anything (you have read about many returned items). I need your words of encouragement in assorted changing rooms of many stores. If clothes themselves don't make me happy, the process of buying them with wonderful friends should.
Treat me as a mannequin, dress my in atrocious ensembles. Laugh, joke and drink coffee with me. Shopping is a social affair and as long as I leave with a few new additions to squeeze into limited space, I think I will be one step closer to being a better person.

I'm pretty sure my book doesn't mention 'retail therapy' at all. But what do these guru's know anyway?

N.B  I don't always talk about clothes and shoes and other idle things. I promise that I do have a brain, I do use it, and I will be using it to my best advantage. But a very wise woman said that you should never dress for the job you have, but for the job you want.
So I'll use a small portion of my brain first, get  super fantastic job and then put my brain into turbo mode and impress everyone with my knowledge. But I'm sure there will still be idiotic things to write about and stupid adventures I take myself on. So if you'd like to stick with me, I'm sure it will be a fun journey to the top.

Friday, 3 February 2012

...And then it was apparently the coldest winter on record.

So just in case you missed the barrage of weather updates on facebook this morning (I'm now ashamed to admit I was one of them) you will know that the Met Office declared that today and our freezing temperatures had made it the coldest one yet.
Quite how one day of -11 degrees (well done Wales on scoring that) justifies a whole winter I don't know. But there you have it. The logic of the Met Office.

I did partake in the frivolities this morning by screen shot-ing, (get me and my iphone jargon) my weather report and posting it to the masses.
Yes, Locks Heath was experience -7 degree temperatures.

So I wrapped up in oh so many layers of clothing, hats, scarves, thermals... you name it, it was somewhere on me. Only to find that it wasn't quite the artic temperatures I was experience.
I probably looked like a right dingus scraping the ice off my car. There were probably some nosy curtain twitchers laughing at me.

Also ... another word of advice from the wise (or not so wise as the case may be) - dress down day in the office, does not mean 'slob day'.
This morning in my haste to get out of the door with enough time to de-ice my car before the hazardously icy (it wasn't) journey to work, I grabbed whatever warm jumper was laying at the top of my drawer.
Now, usually I love this jumper. Its cosy. A little tatty. And pink.  I put it on without a seconds thought and dashed out.
There have been many dress down Friday's at work. Every Friday in  fact, and I've been there nearly a year and a half. So really, I should know the drill.
But I got in the office, took my coat off and have never felt more like a slob than I did in that moment.
It was awful.
No one was especially 'done up' - but ladies, I know that you all know that feeling of being totally under-dressed.
I liken it to being naked in a room of people. For the record I haven't done that either but I think it does the same thing for your self-esteem.

I thought I might use my blog to teach that lesson, to prevent the shame for others. I'll have to work double hard next week to regain some office credibility.
No one commented on it, but I know there were conversations by the water-cooler and in the post room. You just know these things .
Call it female intuition if you will.

So, its a Friday night. I'm not on the M25 tonight. Frank is coming here next weekend. So I'm off for some R&R with Miss USA and Miss Hendo.
R&R for us is comfort food, the sofa and entertainment brought to us by the Hollywood delights - Nancy Meyers, Richard Curtis, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

Have wonderful weekends all. I'm praying for no snow - much to my sister's disgust. I'm travelling to London town tomorrow for a girly day of shopping, drinking and possible theatre-ing. And then Birmingham land to see Mini Dodd 2 at University.
I feel the realisation of student living may come as shock now that I'm in the real world. But I suppose if I threw a pizza box on my bedroom floor and hung a dirty sock from the radiator, I might be part way there!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

...And then my dreams were shattered.

What good is a ballet dancer who can't jump?

No need to read that again. It was correct the first time.

  The English National Ballet shall never choose this adult beginner for the lead in Swan Lake... ( or 'Duck Pond' as Mumma Dodd so cruelly joked one evening.)

I'm not quite sure what I was doing when I was a mere young 'un, but I clearly wasn't with the other kids learning how to lift two feet off the ground. And now I'm paying the price.

It was quite embarassing really. A room full of people, a mirror to reflect it all back and one person who looks like a total moron and a bit of a wally.

Oh well, I suppose I could look on the bright side... its just another thing I can learn. Another skill. Another 'talent'. But really, I don't know how I will fit it in, I'm very busy as it is, without needed to learn things I should know from childhood.
This is what you get from not paying attention.
Ruined dreams and no talent.

And on a totally separate note, if you haven't happened to come across this already may I suggest perusing the youtube channel , 'Watch, listen, tell'.
I did what the name told me.
These are some very gifted musicians. Playing 'au natural' as it were.
Look out for... Emily and The Woods.
(I know her)....

And all this recommended to me on the good old facebook (don't forget to buy your shares soon) by some good friends of mine, 'Delve'. (Check those guys out, I know them too!)

Have wonderful evenings won't you all? I'm going to immerse myself into some wonderfully delectable acoustic music.

Thank the world for you tube. Maybe I'll watch some ballet dancers prance and jump just rub salt in the wounds.

...And then alas, it was still very much winter.

But I saw my first daffodils.  They are peeking their little heads up already.
Madness, really. I’d much rather stay where it was warm rather than stick my face out in the icy cold.
Like my bed. I’d quite like to stay in bed on cold days. None of this runny nose, chilled ears and stinging eyes from the bitter wind please. I don’t mind crisp autumn. But year on year, I am still never prepared with enough layers to sufficiently keep out the cold.
It’s February and there’s still ice. Ice, I tell you. When does spring set it? Daffodils shouldn’t come up when there’s still ice about. Be like me, little flowers, stay in bed!
Ice causes me so many problems. Well… actually only one. I hate de-icing my car. And I still haven’t compensated enough time in the morning to get ready, eat, and warm up Herman. You think I might have learnt by now. Especially with little Brian and his inability to de-ice properly. At least Herman has a heated windscreen.

I scraped and scrubbed the ice off my car this morning, but the winter sun was causing a ridiculous amount of glare that even sunglasses couldn’t prevent. I couldn’t clear the screen because the water nozzles were broken and Herman’s heat takes a little while to kick in ( I never said the heated windscreen worked quickly). I’m practically at work by the time the car is at a drivable temperature. Apparently I don’t drive far enough for the engine to get warm…
I thought I would speed up the glare-clearing process this morning. There was a lone bottle of water rolling around in the passenger foot well, the remnants of a drive to Ipswich to see Frank.
“Ah ha,” I thought to myself, “I shall pour this over the windscreen to clear it.”
Big mistake.
5 minutes of ice scraping was wasted, when the water poured on the car turned to ice too. Immediately. It was quite impressive. Had I not been in semi-bad mood (no lunch money!) already, I might’ve paused a moment to marvel at the gloriousness of science.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

...And then it was February.

"But where did January go?" I hear you cry.

Well my friends, like all good things, it came to an end!
Not that January is all that great, sort of like a really long hangover... Or worse- one long Monday!

There isn't much to do in January. It's a bit dead. Everyone has the post Christmas blues.
No one had any money because christmas ate it up.
You mope about, wishing the spring would arrive to make winter nights less dull.

Personally I enjoy winter nights... Sitting in the pub. Pint and pork scratchings. Dog by the fire place.
(I'm actually just scene setting here. I can't stand pork scratchings, especially the ones with the hairs. Bleurgh)

But when spring arrives you can't do that anymore. Out come the wellies, raincoats and umbrellas... The British monsoon is in its way. How glorious.

So actually, even if no one else likes it - I vote we keep the 'in limbo' weather and funny seasons ... Bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and -8 temperatures. It's a bit novel really.

Roll on February if you must. But perhaps bring some more fun things if you could... The January-haters are a little fed up now!