The Accidental Blonde

Oh my god, I’ve just had the most traumatic experience. I need to lie in a darkened room immediately and possibly stay there for the next six months. I’ve just accidentally gone blonde.

All was going well, my stylist in LA had written down the colour she’s used for the past two years, I’d diligently researched salons in London and found one which used the same products, I’d made an appointment and all was good, or so it seemed.

Halfway through my three hour appointment I realized that things had suddenly gone horribly wrong. The foils came off, I was washed and the cutting began. Suddenly I realized I was a screaming blonde. Not just my nice, safe, barely-there dark blonde, the grey camouflage which I’d reluctantly started after an intervention by the Ramer sisters, but full on blonde. No doubt about it I’m blonde, blonde, BLONDE!

The color was a shock but worse was the cut. Inches hacked off, uneven layers and then straightened to within an inch of its life. Oh my god, my poor hair. All I wanted to do was get home and wash it in the hope that by drying it normally it didn’t look so bad. I’ve always said “it’s only hair, it’ll grow back,” but that was before I’d become Scandinavian.

Looking like the fifth member of Abba, I ran, head down, from Covent Garden to Leicester Square pushing the throngs of people aside. Mortified I tried tying it back, no good, too straight. I couldn’t get home fast enough.

I threw open the front door, flung my bag to the floor and dashed into the bathroom to view the damage. I washed it, I dried it, I looked at it.

Actually… the colour wasn’t too bad. Once the extreme straightening had gone, I think I may have over-reacted slightly as it looks pretty much the same as it did before. Bloody idiot.


Eat, Eat, Eat

The weekend started on Friday. I honestly sent an email to a man in China called Mr. Bendy Wang and after that, I couldn’t take anything seriously so I bunked off and went to the National Gallery to meet the writer and see the Turner exhibition. It was a small exhibition, an interesting comparison between Turner and Claude Lorrain (17th Century French landscape painter) mostly oils but also some really lovely watercolors. I was quite taken with a couple of them, one of Venice (not Beach) in particular and I suspect an Italian city break might be in the not-too-distant future as my tour of the Venices continues.

After the exhibition we had a quick look at St Martin’s Lane, the Philippe Stark/Ian Schrager hotel (stmartinslane.com). I’m familiar with the hotels having stayed at the Hudson and the Royallton in New York. They’re all very designy and cool, a little bit “Through the Looking Glass,” so definitely worth a look but quite pricey to stay there.
Tres Chic
I was feeling quite peckish (quel surprise) and by chance, we found a small Italian restaurant (world famous for their pizza apparently) just down the road from Covent Garden. Another lovely day in London meant we could sit outside and being Friday, it just seemed like a good idea to order a bottle of Prosecco. Oh, why not?!


Lunch lingered on decadently for a few hours. Afterwards we went for a wander around Soho popping into a few vintage shops and then somehow ending up in another Schrager hotel, the Sanderson. 

Entrance to the Sanderson
It seemed like a good idea to have a glass of champagne sitting in the courtyard garden as it became more and more the place to be seen. 

Photos from the website, I was trying to be cool
Afternoon became evening and eight hours of conversation later, we headed over to meet my sister at The Fitzrovia on Goodge St and there we parted ways. Another lovely day and the writer’s self-imposed makeover is going well!


On Saturday I hosted my first gathering at my new flat. Not quite a house-warming but as some of my extended family live on the other side of London (East Croydon to be precise) I invited them over for lunch and a walk up Primrose Hill. Lunch was a delicious array (if I say so myself) of salads, cheeses, dips and of course, a warm, crusty loaf of freshly-baked bread. Add a nice cold glass of French white wine and it was all very civilized.


After lunch we did the now familiar walk along Regent’s Park Road and up to the top of Primrose Hill before buying a selection of delicious pastries and having afternoon tea back at my bright, sunny flat. They were very impressed with the view!


It would appear that I have spent the past few days munching my way around London (so much for pray and love, it’s eat, eat, eat, baby!) and so tomorrow morning I’m off for a run… before I go out for lunch!

1982…1992…2002…2012

March 23rd, 1982

1982
Thirty years ago today my family left the UK and emigrated to Australia. It was 1982, Thatcher’s Britain, we lived in the North where the miners were on strike, things were bad. My parents decided that it would be easier to take three difficult teenagers to live on the other side of the world. In their position, I think I would rather have faced striking miners!

Australia, with Attitude

1992
Twenty years ago I decided to go to LA for three weeks. It was 1992. I had fallen in love on a train in Central Australia; the man in question lived in Los Angeles and as I was going there anyway having just finished Uni, it seemed like a good idea to go and see him. Little did I know that three weeks would turn into twenty years.

2002

In 2002 I met and fell in love with a man who took me sailing from California to El Salvador. Sailing is very slow, it took a long time and so my departure was postponed for several more years.

2012

In 2012 I haven’t fallen in love (yet), there aren’t any striking miners and I’m not going sailing (as far as I can tell) so it seemed like, with all the other options exhausted, I may as well come back to the UK. I’ve come full circle and while there have been lots of ups and downs, it’s never been been dull.

And so finally after thirty years, three passports and an accent which I’ve decided is Engralican (and there are very few of us) now when someone asks me where I’m from, I can just say “Yorkshire.”


The First Month

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I waved goodbye to Stella at LAX, tears were shed I confess but it’s been an exciting, fun, frustrating, massive change of a month and I’ve loved it. I’ve had a huge amount of stress, panicked at times, tried to chill out, worried about work and money, made new friends, had a couple of hangovers, tried to chill out again, done a lot of exercise in an attempt to chill out and resolved to make this work.

From finding my new flat, dealing with the endless paperwork, setting up the utilities, to waiting eternally for broadband, I’ve learned or rather, I’m slowly learning patience. I definitely come from the “I want an Oompa Loompa NOW Daddy,” school of thought for those who are familiar. Well, the Oompa Loompas take their time around here and don’t appreciate it if you try and rush them as my sister found out when it took three months for her broadband to be installed because she kept shouting at them. Lesson learned, I’ve been very nice to the Oompa Loompas and as of today, I have the internet!

The first night in my new flat wasn’t the easiest night if I’m honest. I was exhausted, it had been a very stressful week and as I tried to get to sleep I was pretty sure I could hear monkeys. My flat is quite close to London zoo so there’s a very good chance it was monkeys however it was a Saturday night so may just have been the drunks in Camden (the rough bit down the hill). Things definitely looked better in the light of day and I haven’t heard monkeys since.

I’ve discovered it’s quite challenging not to have any furniture or utensils and I’ve had to buy quite a lot of things just to function although it still looks like no one lives here. At the moment I don’t have a TV so I’m doing a lot of exercise, reading and cooking in my one pan. It’s a good challenge for maintaining a postive attitude and my cooking is getting quite creative now that I’ve mastered the induction cooktop. I suspect I’ll buy a TV (and even another pan) at some point but I’m not bored, there’s been too much going on.

I’ve enjoyed the changes in the weather as one day is never the same as the last. Every morning I get up, open the blind for today’s “weather surprise!” and then the challenge of the day is what to wear which is interesting when you have about ten pieces of clothing or what I’m calling “my capsule wardrobe” but so far I’ve done pretty well.

Overall I’m very happy and feel I’ve done the right thing coming to London. It’s taken me thirty years to get back but I’m starting to feel like I may have come home at last.

Hello Internet!

It’s been a busy week so far but the absolute best news ever (which shows how addicted I am) is that I’m finally back online and now have wifi in my flat. Who needs furniture? Hurray for the internet, I’ve seriously missed you! I’m now available for Skype, I’m catching up on celebrity gossip, can go shopping and do all the other time-wasting internet rubbish I tend to do. I may even end up turning it off as I’ve been enjoying reading library books!

Since my last update I’ve been to a fabulous dinner party in the enormous mansion in Notting Hill where I met lots of Canadian ex-pats. I obsessively ironed two enormous tablecloths (just because I felt I had to and the enormous antique table deserved it), drank far too much champagne because there was good stuff available, and just managed to catch the last tube home. The next day, a little worse for wear, four of us trotted off to Dulwich College (south of the river) to a mid-century modern furniture fair.

Dulwich College

People were feeling slightly under the weather so it wasn’t quite the delightful Sunday outing we’d hoped for but still, my sister ended up with a fantastic bird and, as I’ve lived for many years with mid-century modern furniture and am ready for a change, I managed not to spend any money, I was very pleased with myself.

The much desired and finally purchased blackbird

Monday saw me venturing off to another new experience. The girl who owns my flat runs a monthly group for comic designers so I headed to Brick Lane to see a side of the design world which is new to me. It’s quite a subculture as people are designing 200 page graphic novels (the preferred term for comics) and in one particular case, the whole thing is going to be etched. A labour of love if ever I heard one. The evening introduced me to Sarah who runs the group (www.laydeezdocomics.com) and the London Print Studio (www.londonprintstudio.org.uk) As I was originally a printmaker I’m interested to find out more about the LPS and might go along on Thursday evening to an exhibition which is opening that night.

On Friday afternoon I’m off to see the Turner exhibition at the National Gallery with the writer. Continuing my obsession with the variety of skies I see from the roof terrace, the exhibition is very appealing and I’m really looking forward to it so more details to follow after Friday I’m sure.

Bunking off on Friday afternoon…

There’s so much to do in London and it seems I have plans for several weeks to come which isn’t bad considering I only know about five people. This afternoon though I’m going to walk across Regent’s Park to my favourite shop in the world, Agnes B where, if I play my cards right, I might even get some part time work, my idea of absolute bliss as it would involve a staff discount. Heaven!

An Afternoon on Hampstead Heath

My deluxe double airbed was delivered earlier than expected (how generous I am to my future guests) and so I decided to take a sneaky afternoon off and go to Hampstead Heath. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching companies and generally thinking about my career and it’s important to stop from time to time and enjoy just being in London. Today was one of those days.

Hampstead Heath is only a ten minute bus ride away and the weather played along nicely. I am appreciating that it’s not always like this and it has been spectacular this week, so I packed an apple and some water, prised myself off my roof terrace where I may have actually got a bit sunburned and headed off on the 168. It seemed like an excellent way to explore a little more of London.

At the end of the line is Hampstead, a pretty little village high street leading up to the heath. I walked from the bus stop past the station and followed the trees around. The heath itself is 790 acres of open parkland right on the edge of London. There are ponds, trees, overgrown paths, a stately home and lots of wide open space; it’s stunning. Despite it being a weekday there were joggers, dog walkers, mums with babies, lots of old people and, not including myself in the last category, me. One of the things that’s great is that as soon as the weather is nice here, everyone is outdoors enjoying it while it lasts.


Tree in bloom, Kenwood House
From Kite Hill you can see all of London. It was still a little misty but I appreciated the view as apparently I can’t see enough of the London skyline. Heading further, I discovered Kenwood House and recognised (at the risk of sounding obsessed) another location from “Notting Hill.” No sign of Hugh Grant but c’est la vie, things haven’t been quite the same since he had his love child. I must go back to Kenwood House though, with or without Hugh Grant, as there was a lovely cafe and the house is free and open to the public. 

Kenwood House, sans Hugh

I was interested (and amused) to discover a ladies only bathing pool. Apparently people swim in the ponds on the heath (apart from the ones where dogs go) and while no one was braving the March water, I can imagine that if it’s particularly warm in the summer, it might be fun to go and have a picnic and a dip.


Not really wanting to know if it’s clothing optional

Walking back I sat down at the edge of one of the pools and heard a familiar sound. In Venice I had a flock of very raucous green parrots which lived in the palm tree across the road. They would fly from the palm tree across my deck to the power line beyond where they would sit and noisily abuse the crows. Sure enough, I looked up and there was a bloody green parrot. It must have followed me. Who knew Hampstead Heath was tropical. All I need now is the angry squirrel knocking on my french door demanding nuts and I will have managed to replicate my life in Venice.

Heading back to the bus stop I made the mistake of going into Marks & Spencer Simply Food. Simply incredible more like as the range of food is astounding. I may have to start doing an evening run as well at this rate as I may have indulged in something simply delicious!


Mmm, Cheese

After several years of living on lentils (the years of poverty and misery as I affectionately think of them), I thought I would be able to maintain the same diet in London. I hadn’t reckoned on discovering cheese again. 
It was easy to be so regimented in LA as the food, in my humble opinion, is particularly bland. The bread is sweet and, at the risk of alienating the whole of California, it’s impossible to find anything with flavour.
Arriving in London, I discovered (in my local organic village shop), organic crusty brown bread, oozing Camembert, mild Cheddar, tangy Red Leicester, and butter. Oh my God, I’d forgotten about butter. The salty deliciousness as I sank my teeth into yet another slice of freshly baked bread from my local shop. This is going to be trouble.
It’s just as well I’ve started running because otherwise I’d be doomed. Coupled with the fact that through an involved process of elimination I’ve discovered some incredibly delicious croissants nearby, I am employing the tactic of why French women apparently don’t get fat. One croissant is fine as long as I spend the rest of the day walking and have already been for a run through Regent’s Park. 
My morning routine at the moment is to wake up at 6am as the birds have decided that the dawn chorus doesn’t need to involve dawn and so the infernal singing begins at 4:30am. Don’t get me wrong, I love birds, I’m very excited about spring and to hear geese honking past my window on their way to the duck pond in Regent’s Park is a lovely experience but surely this should all be enjoyed in daylight? A minor detail it would seem.
By then I’m wide awake and I may as well get some exercise and so off I trot, past Primrose Hill to Regent’s Park and then back past the cafe with the delicious croissants. And then really, there’s only so much discipline one can have…
I had a revelation this morning. Apparently I’ve embarked on my version of “Eat, Pray, Love.” I’m experiencing life in a new city and a new phase of life. For the moment I’m just doing the “Eat” part and most of that is cheese. I’m not sure I’ll do the “Pray” bit, might just skip to “Love” depending on how things turn out. I am starting to wonder if I can write it all down and flog it to Oprah.
And so back to the cheese. I’ve spent several years living on lentils and I’m seriously making up for lost time.
Now where’s the butter?