It’s hard to imagine (for those who know my Venice garden apartment) that it would be possible to have downsized but it appears that I’ve managed to yet again, find a home for midgets.

I discovered it when having my first shower and realized that anyone bigger than me was going to have a very difficult time turning around, let alone washing. 

Another interesting UK discovery is that a double bed is not the same as a queen sized bed despite the sheets saying otherwise. In fact, a double bed is basically a glorified single bed. I’ve slept in a queen sized bed for at least twenty years sometimes with someone, sometimes without but always with lots of space. The idea that a double bed is actually meant for two people is quite hilarious. It’s barely big enough for me and I’m not a very big person. 

On the plus side, I’m currently sleeping alone but then again I’m hoping that’s not a permanent state and the big single bed might put a dampener on things!

The extremely high maintenance induction cook top

I’ve spent the last twelve years living with a 1950s vintage stove. It’s the size of a small car, weighs about the same and has extremely basic functions. Turn a knob on and a flame lights, turn it off and the flame goes out. Very easy to operate and no bells or whistles.

Suddenly I find myself in the world of high technology. An induction cooktop. I’m not actually sure what that means but it seems to be very high maintenance. It’s digital; it has to determine whether it’s willing to turn on depending on whether your cookware meets its criteria and if not, it simply doesn’t bother. 

It’s a cooktop with an attitude as far as I can tell. This morning it rejected my stovetop espresso maker simply on the grounds that it was cheap. It refuses to tolerate glass, aluminum or anything nonstick. Only the best stainless steel for this baby. No stainless, no heat, no cooking.

It appears I’ll have to invest in some good quality pans or I’ll be eating out for the foreseeable future. Damn induction cooking, this could get expensive!

Continuing on with the same theme, it would appear the fridge has the same attitude going on. I’ve been living in a bubble of extremely dated appliances as my idea of a fridge is to plug it in and it goes. So here we go again, an uber cool, retro-look digital fridge. I turned it on, pushed a few random buttons and assumed all was well. 

Apparently not, as the next morning I discovered a solid bottle of wine, a brick of hummus and a sub zero temperature. I went for a walk to let things thaw including my frustration and upon my return, discovered the instructions. It took a couple of attempts but I think I’m in business now. The wine is at least liquid again which may be a necessity as the day goes on! 

Moving Day

After five references including my landlord, accountant and boss; three months of bank statements, and what seemed like endless emails, I finally have the keys to my new London flat.

 I’d seen it when I was jetlagged and had a cold, never a good time to make big decisions but everything was good. There is a wardrobe in the bedroom (which I’d forgotten to look at) and while the furnishings are extremely limited, there is a bed and a sofa so I can function.

Once I’d dragged my luggage over from my cousin’s flat in Arsenal (which took two trips on the bus and why I didn’t get a taxi, I’m still not sure), I set off down Oxford Street to buy the basic necessities for my first night.

Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in London and coupled with the fact it was Saturday afternoon, it was wall-to-wall shoppers. I normally avoid Oxford Street like the plague. It’s like participating in an extreme sport as you try and anticipate what the person in front of you is about to do. You might get stuck behind a family ambling along holding hands or you might get lucky and find a fast walker you can slipstream behind until they detour across the road. Luckily I’d worn trainers and power walking doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Anyway there I was, having managed to buy (in what must be a power shopping record) a duvet, two pillows, a mattress protector, two bath towels, a bath mat and two hand towels (although in hindsight, I probably didnt need the hand towels). Duvet in large box in one hand, two enormous plastic bags in the other and handbag slung up my arm, I ventured out in the thronging crowds. Barge, apologise, barge, apologise. Oh sorry, well you can see I’ve got a lot of stuff (and you could have moved…) Smile nicely, continue and repeat.

Oxford Circus, one of the busiest stations in London. I managed to squeeze on to the tube. A few stops to Euston then change for the Northern line and lots of escalators along the way. The Northern line was under construction so I had a fifteen minute wait with a welcome sit-down. I had a nice chat with a woman sitting next to me about the relative pros and cons of the Northern line and before long, we were on the tube again, I was blocking the door but it created a laugh with my fellow passengers and all was well.

Off at Chalk Farm, up in the lift (hurray there’s a lift because otherwise it’s 54 steps up from the platform and no, I didn’t count, there’s a sign,) out on to the road, round the corner, up in the extremely small lift to the miniature penthouse/attic. Done.

Open plan kitchen and living room

Of course I wasn’t done and so dropped everything and headed to the Morrisons superstore down the road. I’m in an interesting area. If you walk up the hill, it’s lovely with cafes, nice brasseries and kitchen design shops. Very civilised and middle class. If you walk down the hill you walk towards Camden, things get louder and dirtier and a little bit rough. I looked a little out of place in a pink cardigan, silver ballet flats and a clematis peeking out of my Eco friendly bag.

Bed with a View

The Morrisons superstore was quite daunting but armed with food to survive the night, a kettle and a bottle of wine (to celebrate moving in) I headed back up the hill to unpack, make the bed, have a glass of wine, watch the sunset and spend my first night in my new London flat.

Sunset from the generously named roof terrace

The Slightly Over-designed Viking Ship

I have been in Exeter for the past few days with my sister and her family.
It was the last day of the holidays and we spent the day walking in Dartmoor enjoying the sunshine with a refreshing cider.
Returning home we realised that my eight year old niece needed to make a model of a Viking ship for her homework. It was Sunday afternoon, the project was due on Monday morning so the architect and the graphic designer set to work and four hours later produced a rather spectacular, slightly over-designed Viking ship complete with glistening golden deck, gold striped sail and gold shields. Upon reflection we think we might have gone a bit too far!

The Slightly Over-designed Viking Ship
The only problem now is how an eight year old is going to pass this off as her own work!

Hello England!

In the past five years I must have done more than ten reconnaissance missions as I have wanted to try returning to the UK for a long time. Leaving LA on a one way ticket for the first time meant that this time, the flight from LA to London felt quite different. A little sad (especially as I left my home of the past twelve years,) a little nervous but mostly excited.
Landing in London I was relieved to find the extremely cold weather had passed and it was a mild and quite tolerable 7 degrees. Meeting my sister at Paddington, we spent my first night roughing it in a seven bedroom mansion in Notting Hill.
The next morning we were up and out of the house (or enormous mansion) bright and early as my sister had considerately arranged to meet an estate agent at 9am! My sister has a terrier-like tenacity especially when it comes to getting on with things. Left to my own devices I might have spent a couple of days adjusting but it wasn’t to be and so we were off!
Dirty carpet, small windows, grim, depressing and smelly. All the things I’d imagined came to light. My worst nightmare is living in a depressing London flat drying my underwear on the radiator and I could easily have accomplished this by lunchtime!
By the end of the day we’d seen ten flats, one of which was small but very nice, light and bright and the other, a lower ground floor flat was nice but quite dark. Neither of them felt quite right and neither could match my lovely Venice garden apartment. So we retired to the mansion and spent a pleasant evening having dinner with friends.
Day two I ventured out on my own. I was feeling a bit under the weather due to jetlag and having picked up a cold somewhere over the Atlantic but I didn’t want to let the side down so valiantly went back to St John’s Wood to have a second look at the small, nice flat from yesterday. It was still small and nice but my concern was that it was claustrophobic and I started to realise I was missing outdoor space.
Dennis, my sister’s pet estate agent then took me to see a flat in Chalk Farm, just near Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park, my favourite part of London. The flat was bigger, it was nice but it was expensive and had carpet. Better, but still not giving me a sense that I could be happy. I wandered off to a nearby cafe and had a coffee and a think.
It was the area I liked so walking past a local estate agent I took a chance and went in. They had a flat they could show me, it was being painted and no one else had seen it yet. Ironically it was in the next building to the one I’d just seen but this time was different.
In a 1930s mansion block, on the sixth (and top) floor (I’ve never lived above the ground floor) I walked in and saw an absolutely stunning panoramic view of London. It’s not big but it has the much sought-after outdoor space in the form of a roof terrace which compares nicely to my Venice deck and a view I didn’t know existed in London. I knew immediately I would be happy and so spontaneously put in my application, paid a deposit and am now gathering references in order to convince the estate agents that I’m the ideal tenant.
If everything is approved, I can move in on Saturday. If not, it’s going to be a hard act to follow.
My fingers are crossed that I get to live in the flat on the hill in Chalk Farm. Guests will be welcome and photos to follow if all goes well!

The Last Hurrah…Part Two

Sunday afternoon was a small gathering of friends at Venice cafe/wine bar Zinque. It was the ideal location to enjoy a drink and say at least a temporary goodbye to good friends. 

It’s starting to become a reality now that I’m actually leaving. In the past few days some interesting and exciting business propositions have come to light and I feel as though things are falling into place. 

Men in Plaid
Ramer, Bygrave, Ramer Bygrave
It’s not easy to leave a place where I’ve lived for so long and it’s hard to say goodbye but I feel I’m doing the right thing and if things don’t work out, I can always come back… unless they really do slam the door behind me!

The Last Hurrah… Part 1

I was all set for sneaking off without saying goodbye but it wasn’t going to happen and I’m very glad it didn’t. Saturday night was dinner with Lia and Min which started off with an elegant dinner of sushi and hilarity…

Elegance Personified
A brief stop after dinner saw Min, elegance personified, buying a bottle of Chandon Rosé and a box of “Chicken in a Biskit.” I had a strange inkling that things might go downhill.
Sure enough, I staggered into the dog bowl and ended up going to bed (at Lia’s house) at 2am. Much hilarity all round though so all in all, the last hurrah was off to a good start.
Should I mention the spelling of “Biskit”?

LA Woman

It was inevitable that I would pick up a few cultural traits along the way.
I admit it, I have a high maintenance diet.
And I wear extremely large sunglasses and yes, I have a collection of heels which are great at work for being tall but are the shoes of death at all other times.
My worst crime though, the oversized handbag (or purse as it’s called here). I’m guilty, I admit it. Sometimes there’s nothing in it but a phone and a pair of the above-mentioned very large sunglasses but it’s an LA essential and leaving home without it somehow feels naked.
My dilemma, having started packing is, are three handbags too many? I’m doing everything I can to squeeze bags inside bags; stuffed with socks, scarves, squirrel underpants and anything else small I can find.
I had to have the Hermes Birkin, I couldn’t help it, it was a lovely gift, and actually you can’t tell it’s fake. We’ve renamed it the Firkin (as in fake Birkin) to avoid any confusion. Living in LA one becomes accustomed to asking the question, “Real or Fake?” not always in reference to handbags and it’s not always easy to tell. So the Firkin is coming and I’m repacking… again!
Not the fake Birkin

The Unpredictable Spaniel

It’s my final week in LA.
I thought I’d rented my house out for six months only to get a phone call from the prospective tenants to tell me that they’d “accidentally forgotten” to tell me that they had a dog! How is that possible? It wouldn’t have been a problem (I’m a former/future dog owner after all) except that on closer questioning it became apparent that the dog in question was “unpredictable.”

I’m going to hazard a guess that unpredictable really means ferocious although it was a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. Not exactly Pitbull material so it probably wouldn’t have involved illegal dog fights in my back garden but still, as there’s a small child on the property I thought my neighbours might appreciate not having an unpredictable dog next door.

I resisted the impulse to panic. I’m leaving in a week, I need to have this sorted. So I laughed (albeit a little hysterically) and called Lisa the Lifecoach who was my other (and really, favourite choice). No answer, so I left a message (“don’t sound desperate, don’t sound desperate,” I thought to myself).

The last resort would be the model/actor/bodybuilder/yogi and yes, that’s one person but that’s another story altogether.

I played it as cool as I could and when Lisa called me back, we were both delighted it had worked out. Lisa came round, check in hand and the deal was done. The only thing left to do was go out for dinner and have a couple of drinks to celebrate (or something).
And so the plan is back on, 6 days to go and counting. Lots to do but by next Tuesday evening, I’ll be on a one way flight to London!
A Very Unpredictable Spaniel