LA Surprise!

I had a lovely surprise as a friend of mine from LA sent me a message on Facebook to say she was in London. Hurray! I’d just come home covered in mint tea from the previously mentioned lunch date and was feeling a little damp both in spirit and trousers so it was just the thing to cheer me up.

As luck would have it, we were both free for the evening so I jumped on the Number 31 bus (still raining, still loving my umbrella) and headed over to Notting Hill for an evening of catching up on Venice gossip and a few good laughs.

We went for a meal at a little Greek restaurant, Aphrodite Taverna, ( where we’d eaten the evening I’d arrived in London. Luckily we were able to get a table without a reservation despite it being a busy Saturday evening; a delicious selection of small plates and a couple of glasses of house red combined with good conversation made for a fun night out.

I headed back to Chalk Farm after dinner having enjoyed myself immensely and back on good form. It’s nice to have a friend in town.

It looks as though this could be a very fun week!

Dating Adventures Part Two

Other than my first internet date the other week, my recent dating history consists of going on a blind date in 2002 which turned into a long term relationship so it’s fair to say I’m a little rusty. I thought it might be a good idea to go on a practice date. Big mistake!

Things started off well, a nice location for brunch and an easy conversation. A funny guy, a successful writer whom I’d met last weekend at the Primrose Hill housewarming. We’d got on well and it seemed like a good idea to meet up.

Brunch was delicious (smoked salmon and poached eggs, one of my favourite combinations) and afterwards we went for a wander through Camden Market. As the crowds became increasingly congested, we ducked down and walked along Regent’s Canal in the rain (luckily I had my ladies umbrella!) We popped up at the end of Gloucester Avenue and headed to the Lansdowne (, a pub filled with families having lunch, lots of noise and lots of small children. Babies with spoons like to bang them on wooden tables and so with the relentless background noise, I was having a hard time concentrating on the conversation and was starting to get a slight headache.

Not long after sitting down, things went horribly wrong. I can’t even bear to write the details except it involved a full cup of boiling hot mint tea landing on my left thigh. I was drenched but luckily I was able to lift the searing corduroy off my leg and avoid a third degree burn. 

Things went horribly wrong!

It was an unfortunate accident but admittedly things went rapidly downhill after that and so, after an awkward farewell, I squelched my way home in wet, minty, corduroy trousers.

Family Ties

It’s still quite a novelty for me to be living in a country with family members and so Friday evening saw me meeting up with my second cousin (or cousin once removed?) and my sister for drinks at Gordon’s Wine Bar.

Heading down the hill towards Embankment, Gordon’s is what we’d describe in LA as a hole in the wall. It’s easy to miss but head on down the stairs and you end up in what was originally a wine cellar. A bit of a London institution, Gordon’s is the oldest wine bar in London (established in 1890 according to the website

A London Institution

Arriving at 5:30pm we were lucky as it wasn’t full and we were able to get our first round in without having to queue or battle our way to the bar. We headed outside and managed to share a table alongside the Embankment Gardens.

Arriving a few minutes later, my sister went off in search of a beer. It’s typical of my sister that she’d go to a wine bar and fancy a beer! Gordon’s Wine Bar is surprisingly, a wine bar, the name says it all. She returned with a glass of wine and a selection of nuts and olives.

Early Friday evening in London is a fantastic atmosphere. People pour out of their offices, pour into the pubs and then literally pour on to the pavements. After a week of heavy showers, the rain obligingly held off and we enjoyed sitting outside in the early evening light despite the helicopters overhead (a little touch of Venice Beach) thanks to a man on Tottenham Court Road who’d had a bit of a wobble.

No, it wasn’t this sunny

Heading in to buy the second round, things had changed. Gordon’s was wall-to-wall with people and having finally elbowed my way to the bar, I was then faced with the challenge of how to carry three full wine glasses through a crowd of people without spilling them. Walking slowly with lots of apologies and amazingly, only a little bit of swearing, I finally made it back to the table with only minor spillage so job well done. I’d taken the precaution of leaving my beige trench coat at the table, somehow three glasses of wine and a freshly dry cleaned Agnes B trench felt incompatible. Good thinking as it turned out.

Conversation was entertaining and included the following topics: my online dating adventures and whether it’s a good idea to go on a practice date in anticipation of a potentially good date; the redesign of my cousin’s kitchen as done by my sister and how outrageous it is for someone to ask you to take a salad to a party on the tube. We covered it all and had a good laugh, just don’t expect a salad from any of us.

Finishing up our second round, it was time to make a move. We headed back to Charing Cross where my cousin went south to Croydon, my sister went west to Paddington to go back to Exeter and I headed north to Chalk Farm. It was an ideal meeting place and a repeat visit is definitely in order.

And so begins another weekend!

The Social Butterfly

After a busy week which included the disastrous first (and last) date, Saturday night rolled around. I’d been invited to a housewarming by a girl I met at my landlord’s dinner party a few weeks ago and as I’m currently accepting all social invitations, I bought a bottle of French wine and walked around the corner to meet some of the Primrose Hill set.

There’s nothing like flying solo at a party where you only know one person to test one’s self confidence. I gave myself a good pep talk in the bathroom mirror before I went, made sure I looked and felt as good as possible and promised that I would stay for an hour. If I was having a good time, I could stay as long as I wanted as long as I behaved myself. 

It turns out that I quite like meeting random strangers. I had a great time and met loads of interesting people, many of whom worked for the BBC. I did a little shameless networking and talked to someone in marketing about Gem’s Friends who are rapidly coming out of hibernation. I met a(nother) successful writer, this time comedic and I think there might even be some more dating in the near future as my number was requested and surely it can’t be worse than Thursday’s date. Onward and upward.

Being the new girl in town (especially one with a rather interesting or unconventional life story) people are inviting me along to things and while it’s not always easy to go alone, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how nice people have been and the host of last night’s party was no exception. 

I stumped home in my ridiculously impractical, confidence-boosting Prada boots at 1am having stayed for three and a half hours. I’d behaved impeccably, no horror stories or hangovers for this social butterfly, just a pair of extremely tired feet. 

Time for bed.

Dating Adventures Part One

Thursday saw me taking the plunge and going on my first Internet date. I’d had an inkling that it wasn’t going to go well as the man in question mentioned his ex-girlfriend in the first two minutes of conversation. Do I really need to know about Karen the Australian? I don’t think so. Far too much information.

It really was a disaster from the start and hard to put a positive spin on it so I’m chalking it up to experience as a reminder that I must remember to trust my instincts.

I maintain that physical attraction has to be immediate, it’s not something for me which will come in time, it’s either there or it’s not and in this case it wasn’t. If I had to choose a celebrity lookalike, I would say Cliff Richard in his later years which is obviously appealing to certain ladies of a certain generation, sadly not to me.

It wouldn’t be fair to go into details mainly because I’d have to relive them in order to write them down. It would be fair to say that we had absolutely nothing in common. I don’t particularly like Michael Jackson, I don’t watch Strictly Come Dancing and I do actually know where Marbella is but thanks for checking anyway.

I’m fairly sure the feeling was mutual as, after an hour it seemed time was up and the gentleman in question said he had to make a move as he had a job interview the following day. As it was 7:15pm and there was no danger of being late, I suspect he was trying to get away from me, hard to believe I know.

We walked to the tube (surprisingly, a little uncomfortably) and said a polite goodbye without any promises of future contact. At least no one said “I’ll call you.”

So the plunge was taken, the ice was broken and I can only hope that it’s onward and upward from here.


April Showers

The illusion of Spring which was March has made way for traditional April showers.

From what I can tell, the difference between a shower and rain is the element of surprise. One looks out of the window, all looks good, a few puffy light clouds and, as it turns out, a false sense of security. Off to work walking briskly then halfway across Regent’s Park when it’s too late to turn back and too far to make a run for it, there’s suddenly a heavy shower and everything is immediately drenched. It’s such a tease!

I don’t mind the rain at all, in fact I loved rainy days in LA (all two of them) but the pathetic excuse for an umbrella which I’ve been using has blown inside out more times than I can count and it’s time to get serious about this.

I headed to John Lewis. I’m a massive fan of the John Lewis brand and the department store on Oxford Street is even worth dealing with the crowds, well, almost.

I found the umbrella department and while they didn’t have the polka dot pattern I’d hoped for, I did find one in miniature houndstooth. It’s a proper umbrella with a handle and a spike. A walking umbrella. It’s lightweight… for ladies, and it has a whopping 94cm diameter of dryness!

I hopped off the bus and, as if they’d been waiting for me, the heavens opened. My brand new automatic ladies walking umbrella popped open faster than you can say 94cm diameter of dryness and I was practically skipping in what suddenly became a torrential downpour. I was blissfully dry (except for my knees) and I felt horribly smug underneath. 

I will have to be careful not to take someone’s eye out or turn into a grumpy old lady poking small children with it on the bus but otherwise it was possibly the best £20 I’ve spent.
Bring on the rain!

Hurray, it’s Pollards UK!

Sunday saw me heading out of London to have lunch with the family of two of my closest friends in LA. I was off to glorious Basingstoke which boasts the tallest building between London and New York!

Arriving in Basingstoke I was greeted by a welcoming committee who whisked me off to nearby Winchester for a wander through town and lunch in a really nice pub, The Wykeham Arms.

Family photo outside the Wykeham Arms
The menu was quite a challenge simply because so many things sounded delicious. The highlight (which sadly I didn’t order but did taste) was an incredible pea and wild garlic soup, the flavour of the peas was intense and I’m tempted to try and make it myself, if only I had a blender.

After a long debate, I finally settled on the perfectly cooked fish and chips served with crushed peas and tartar sauce. The duck and the pollock also looked spectacular. Combined with animated conversation and plenty of good-natured teasing, it was a lovely Sunday lunch and reminded me of being with my own family, mostly because of the teasing!

I insisted on taking a family photo outside. Most people on my blog remain anonymous, however with a family trait of bendy little fingers, while I will try to protect their identities, there’s only so much I can do!

The genetic bendy little finger

After lunch we went for a stroll around Winchester, on the tour I picked up a few bits of trivia such as Winchester was the former capital city of England before London. Who knew? Well, lots of people apparently. With my interest piqued, I looked Winchester up on Wikipedia. 

Winchester developed from the Roman town of Venta Belgarum. I’m a big fan of the Romans, those industrious chaps who did lots of things like building roads, diverting rivers, designing sewers and constructing walls. They did a nice job on the river in Winchester.

The River Itchen, Winchester

The impressive cathedral was begun in 1079 with construction continuing over several centuries. Due to waterlogged foundations and starting to sink, the cathedral was saved in the early twentieth century by a single diver who worked in total darkness for six years in depths of twenty feet. A bit obsessive but job well done! It’s one of the largest cathedrals in England and is a fantastic structure with its flying buttresses. 

Not Sinking, Winchester Cathedral

It was starting to get chilly and therefore time to head back to Basingstoke for a cup of tea and a tour of the allotment. The allotment was impressive to say the least (and I’m not just saying that). I have never had much success growing vegetables and am in awe of those who can. 

Now that’s an allotment!
Armed with a bag of home grown rhubarb which I was assured would ensnare an eligible gentleman on the train back to London, I said my goodbyes. It had been a lovely day out in Hampshire. I’d enjoyed seeing friends who felt like old friends, discovering new places and tasting that pea soup.

I will just add that the rhubarb didn’t do its job despite me leaving an alluring stalk peeping out of the Sainsbury’s bag, so I won’t be employing that tactic in central London.

Or will I?

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Saturday morning, no rain and so I decided it was going to be market day.

I trotted off to Archie’s Antique Market in Lisson Grove and discovered an old department store filled with treasures. Vintage clothes, furniture, lighting, china and glass. It was good quality, no bargains but a pleasant time was had poking through the various concessions. Emerging on to Church Street, I discovered a plethora of boutique antique shops or perhaps I should say “antiques boutiques.” A meander was in order and so I strolled in and out of the little shops and enjoyed myself immensely.

I was close to Marylebone station so hopped on the tube to Waterloo in search of my next market. I walked along Southbank, along the side of the Thames enjoying a water view for the first time in a while. I am missing the Pacific ocean a little if I’m honest having lived near it for a very long time. The great, brown Thames while impressive isn’t quite the same. Still, London has a lot going on and I was heading to Borough Market.

A bit crowded inside

Borough Market is a food market which is open from Thursday to Saturday and is well worth a visit. ( It was my first time there and I’m glad I went when I was hungry because the food options were varied and plentiful. There’s something for everyone! I wandered around (slowly due to the crowds of people) and decided a falafel wrap was my lunch of choice. Good decision, I’m always a fan of falafel and this lived up to expectations. 

Continuing on I discovered a cider maker. I’m quite partial to the odd cider and the cider made in the Methode Champenoise was no exception. I haven’t been drinking lately for various reasons but decided it was worth trying “cider champagne.” It was lighter than normal cider, delightfully bubbly and dry without being overly so. In hindsight it would have been good to buy a bottle as a gift but I forgot. C’est la vie.

Better not tell the French
Wandering on I discovered a lovely patisserie and a cherry and almond tart called my name. Somehow it jumped into my bag and insisted on coming home for afternoon tea. 

I would say that if one is crowd-intolerant Borough Market is not the place to head to, it was hard going at times but patience is always good. When I began to get frustrated, it was time to leave.

Leaving Borough Market I had a couple of options. Hop on the tube at London Bridge and head back home up the Northern line (very convenient) or go for a wander. This intrepid explorer chose the latter option and so I walked across London Bridge and walked back along the Thames Path on the other side towards Embankment.

The Shard under the Millennium Bridge

Under the Millennium Bridge, past the Tate Modern (where I’m in no hurry to see the Damien Hirst exhibition) and then, in a moment of madness, I turned right and headed up to Covent Garden to the London Transport Museum. Crazy!

A rather dark view of the Tate Modern

At the LTM I discovered the work of printmaker, Paul Cathrall ( known for his graphic linocuts of London landmarks. I was quite taken with them and while not quite in the market for a limited edition print, I did buy a few greeting cards. I wouldn’t mind a print though as they’re quite stunning and as I started out as a printmaker, I am particularly fond of linocuts.

“Battersea Brick” 

By this time I could hear a little voice from my bag saying “Eat Me!” and so I headed to Trafalgar Square and jumped on the number 24 bus. I try and take buses when I can, they’re cheaper for one thing, but also it’s a fantastic view from the top of a double decker and it helps me to remember my way around. 

Off we went, past Leicester Square, up Tottenham Court Road and finally through Camden Market which was jammed with thousands of people buying Union Jack t-shirts. I’d done enough markets for the day and the idea of pushing through crowds again wasn’t the slightest bit appealing.

It was time to head up the hill, put the kettle on and enjoy a very delicious cherry and almond tart which sadly I don’t have a photo of because it didn’t last long. 

A very good day out!

Dating, Online and Not

As I’m currently between relationships, I’ve decided to take another leap of faith (in the leap year of leaps) and have embarked on my most dreaded thing, online dating. I’ve been lurking on a site for a couple of months and finally broke down the other day and paid for a month’s subscription. Granted, a month isn’t a long time but I think it will give me a sense of whether or not this is for me.

And so I have written what I think is quite a good profile, a little wit and a pretty interesting life story. I haven’t mentioned strolling hand-in-hand at sunset on a beach or cuddling by an open fire, two cliches which, while nice, are guaranteed to make me run for the hills. I’ve added a couple of photos which look like me so no false advertising and I’ve listed my real age. Yes, my real age!

The age thing is a bit tricky it would seem. I’m very happy at this age, I’m in pretty good shape (if I say so myself because, well, someone has to) and at 42 I feel emotionally balanced and happy. I’m not quite ready for a suitor over 55 but from what I can tell, many men are looking for a woman under 40.

So far I’ve been emailing with an Englishman living in the South of France who is pretty funny and I’m fighting off a number of unsuitables including a nudist who described his style as “natural” and another chap who used the line “You’ve Got Male.” Horrors!

I’m not loving the process, it seems quite unnatural but then again, it’s easier than sitting by myself in a pub looking desperate over half a cider. When it comes down to it, it’s all about chemistry and it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as there’s a spark.

So I’ll continue for the month and see what happens and then I might go to Barcelona…

Are You Being Served?

The Easter weekend saw me going on location to Agnes B at Fenwick. Fenwick (pronounced Fen-ick, Americans) is a department store on New Bond Street which has been there since 1891. The Fenwick chain was founded in 1882 and I think some of the original staff might still be there.

The building is a rabbit warren of old corridors, heating ducts, back stairs, slow creaky lifts and up on the fourth floor, the dreaded stockroom, dark and cold, which I am yet to encounter.

I made the mistake of sitting in the staff canteen for lunch and there, under cobwebs I think I might have seen Mrs Slocam. 

Mrs Slocam, Are You Being Served?

She was an old lady who looked about eighty (apologies if not) and from an era when you got a job at eighteen and stayed in that job for your entire working career. I can only admire her as I’m not sure either my legs or I would be able to stand for that length of time.

I have started to learn merchandising which is intriguing from the point of consumer behaviour as the display can clearly influence customer choice. My knowledge of colour and pattern is being put to good use!

As I’m now hearing the soundtrack to “Are You Being Served?” in my head, I can end this post by saying, “I’m free!” but suspect that might be referring to my hourly rate!