Sunday night and a gastronomic treat as Letad decided to use up some leftover bread and spontaneously whip up a bread and butter pudding.
It was a twist on a classic as it involved making marmalade sandwiches covered in custard… Hmm, it even sounds… delicious.
Delia, the old tried and true English institution, provided the recipe. Letad followed it almost to the letter only skipping the orange zest, cream and brown sugar and sort of guessing the measurements as we didn’t have a measuring jug.
Whisking was replaced by vigorous shaking in a yogurt pot and then the mixture of milk, eggs and sugar was tipped over the marmalade sandwiches. Sultanas were chucked in ten minutes later as they’d been forgotten.
Into a medium oven for half an hour and the end result… a fluffy bread and butter omelette complete with a hint of marmalade.
I declined to partake.
Letad had it for lunch but apparently it wasn’t very nice.
It was an interesting week.
Having thrown in the towel on the property hunt last weekend, having missed out yet again on another property, Letad having found his dubious dream flat in Belsize Park and with all the hilarious moments of looking at kitchens in cupboards, squats in attics, half bedrooms and lower ground dungeons, an ironic email arrived on late Thursday afternoon announcing that perhaps, after six months, the imaginary flat in Parliament Hill was finally ready to move forward. We couldn’t quite believe it.
Of course there was a catch. The wily seller was now asking for a cheeky £20,000 extra as the market had increased in the past six months. As if we didn’t know.
We weighed up the options. Continue the joy of flat hunting every Saturday or stump up £20k to finally get things moving. Despite the potential end of the least enjoyable hobby ever, we decided to stump up the money.
With the email sent, a phone call came in on Saturday morning just as we were setting off on our bikes to see two more flats. The chain was complete, it was all systems go.
And so on Monday we’ll be instructing solicitors and talking to the bank. In the meantime we’re continuing to look at flats. Until the papers are signed and keys are in hand, the deal isn’t done.
But there’s a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the very dull tunnel and so we celebrated with a drink at what might be our new local, the Bull and Last in Parliament Hill before riding back to Chalk Farm and carrying the bikes up six flights of stairs.
The end in sight… hopefully!
Pipped at the post yet again, this time by £20K grrr!
A shame but then again, we’re glad we’re not paying £65,000 over the asking price.
We picked ourselves up, had a little mope, debated giving up (failure is not an option) and by lunchtime, Letad was excited about a flat he went to see without me.
I heard the excitement in his voice and decided I should act. I ran out of work (it was time I took a lunch break), jumped on a bus and went to see the large, gracious Georgian flat in Belsize Park… except I must have been shown the wrong flat as I saw a nasty flat with laminate flooring which needed gutting completely.
Perhaps I was missing something?
Admittedly I’ve been a bit grumpy but still, I couldn’t see any potential and for me that’s rare. I’ve mentally renovated and redecorated every flat we’ve seen, drawing over floor plans and arranging furniture.
Not the flat for us I suspect…
It’s been two years since I arrived in the UK, returning to my roots and taking a huge leap of faith.
Two years has seen me say goodbye to friends, move countries, fall in love, get married, start a new job and look for a home to buy. These are daunting life events in themselves but throw them all together and there have been times when I’ve felt quite overwhelmed. I do like a challenge but sometimes…
Things have been tough lately. For anyone reading this, the ongoing flat hunting combined with work challenges have resulted in fairly dull reading and I, more than anyone wish things would start to progress.
Tomorrow we make our best and final offer on what was a reasonably priced flat in Tufnell Park. It’s likely that offers will be £50K over the asking price.
Perhaps life in a caravan would be easier?
Sunday and with the weather actually living up to its namesake, we spontaneously decided to go to Whitstable for a day at the seaside. How very English!
We set off and discovered that spontaneity was not an option as the recent storms and rain had affected the train lines and there was a replacement bus service running.
Our journey went… Chalk Farm to Euston (tube). Euston to Victoria (tube). Victoria to Rochester (train) Rochester to Rainham (bus) Rainham to Whitstable (train). And then walk. It took us two hours to get to Whitstable. Just in time for lunch.
|Impressions of Kent..
It was a glorious day, sunny but cold and so we headed off to have lunch at the Crab and Winkle restaurant overlooking the dock. www.crabandwinklerestaurant.co.uk
|View of the dock
We started with crayfish tails, anchovies, a deep fried oyster and tempura squid before progressing to a shared plate of traditional beer battered cod and chips.
Replete, we set off to walk along the front (along with hundreds of other people who had the same idea) and blow away the cobwebs. It was the first sunny day of the year and half term and so dogs and their owners, bored small children in strollers and old people all meandered their way along the promenade.
|The Oyster Shack… busy on a sunny Sunday
|View to South End
|Shadows – such a novelty!
Whitstable has a charm which has managed to resist the temptations of amusement arcades and hamburger joints prevalent in other English seaside towns. There is a sense of Cape Cod with the Victorian weatherboard houses facing the mingling Thames Estuary and North Sea and the whimsy of a bygone era.
|Weatherboard beach huts (£75 a night)
|Meandering past the pub
From the pebble beach we strolled inland and wandered along the rustic high street. Traditional oyster bars, cafes, restaurants and gift shops lined the road and we noticed the absence of the chain stores. No Pret a Manger, no Starbucks, no McDonalds, only a Costa Coffee had somehow managed to sneak past the regulations. The shops were rather quaint and very touristy but somehow they worked.
|Traditional oyster bar
|Fish supper (or tea up North)
The shadows were starting to lengthen (a novelty indeed) and the day was starting to cool. We set off back to the station and jumped on a train to Faversham… and a train to Rainham, a bus to Strood and a high speed train to St Pancras. From there it was a tube to Camden and a final tube to Chalk Farm. Three hours later we were home.
Five trains, four tubes, two buses and five hours on public transport.
|Oysters, oysters, everywhere
|Woman and dog in matching leopard
There’s nothing like a bit of spontaneity!
The conference finally came to an end, the pack of wolves retreated and I gave myself a long weekend to recover.
We started Saturday morning with the now obligatory round of flat viewings. It had been incredibly windy in the night with the outdoor sofas trying to leap from the very small balcony and the wind had only abated slightly.
With periodic rain showers and piercingly cold winds, house hunting with minor depression was more than a little unappealling.
We are slaves to the cause however and so, shunning the bikes, we set off to Archway and Tufnell Park for the first viewings.
For the first time in months we looked at a flat which wasn’t horrifically overpriced. Perhaps this time we could be the wily buyers offering £50,000 over the asking price and secure the deal. Time to be bullish.
We saw four flats as we battered our way through blustery winds, umbrellas turning inside out.
Finally we made it back to the extremely overcrowded little flat in Chalk Farm. It’s been a lovely flat but it’s definitely reached maximum capacity.
We sat down and put in an offer on the reasonably priced flat in Tufnell Park.
And now we wait…
Another day and with more discussions about my role, I was feeling extremely fragile by the time late afternoon arrived.
With the prospect of a global dinner facing me, I was more than ready to commit career suicide in the toilets…
I coined the phrase “career suicide” recently and today was a day when I felt I might commit it.
Day one of the annual creative conference where I stood up for five hours and presented the work for the next six months to thirty people. Too many cooks perhaps?
It’s tough. You can’t please all of the people and yet I started to wonder, can you even please some of the people?
For the first time in this job, I really questioned my role and wondered if it was possible to succeed or whether perhaps, I was being set up for failure.
I decided to drown my sorrows.
Career suicide will just have to wait for another day.
Saturday morning and with a blustering wind and rain showers, we set off on our bikes (after the obligatory and rather tedious six flights down) to view yet another flat.
We had made an offer on the place we’d seen in St Albans and had spent the week freaking out (Letad) about living in a commuter town or quietly excited (me) about the prospect of three bedrooms and a home for normal-sized humans. Despite that, it wasn’t meant to be as we were outbid yet again by another buyer who came in fifteen thousand pounds above us. Letad felt we’d dodged a bullet, I was less sure.
By a twist of fate, we were sent another flat to view, this time back in London but ironically on St Albans Road. Was this the one? It certainly seemed auspicious as it coincided with the birth of Letad and so we hoped it would be the ideal birthday present.
We stopped en route for a birthday breakfast at a place we hadn’t tried before. The Kentish Canteen in our now preferred area of London, Kentish Town (how things have changed) was not up to par compared with our beloved Chamomile cafe in Belsize Park, but we ate, sat through a rain squall and then continued to St Albans Road.
It was a case of location, location, location. Right next to Hampstead Heath, it was ideal but the flat itself. We were divided in our opinions. For me it was reminiscent of a bedsit (I don’t want to be able to see my bed from the sofa) and for Letad, there were high ceilings, period features and potential. What to do?
We left feeling discouraged. We’re both exceedingly bored with flat-hunting at this stage and are taking it in turns to lose hope.
Will we ever find a flat?
Saturday morning and the flat hunting continued.
We looked at two flats despite having just arrived back from New York. One in Kentish Town was interesting but we decided to take a train out to the commuter town of St Albans to see what lay outside the M25.
It only took twenty minutes and suddenly we were passing through fields. Green space, a novelty.
Arriving in St Albans it was chilly and with an hour to kill, we set off to the cathedral, a fascinating patchwork of architecture through the ages.
We had an express tour and discovered we were standing on the oldest spot in Britain where Christian worship had been taking place since 300 a.d. The cathedral combined Roman, Norman, Gothic and Victorian sections with little concern for sympathetic styles.
The sense of history was apparent with a Roman town nearby.
We set off to the viewing and discovered a lovely three bedroom flat which felt like a home. It had a garden, a separate kitchen, three human-sized bedrooms and was immaculate. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing one bedroom flats with kitchens in cupboards, bedrooms fit for midgets, half a bedroom (yes, really) and all for the bargain price of half a million pounds.
I have to confess, it’s tempting. Perhaps it’s time to move outside London and become a commuter. After all, it’s only twenty minutes to Kings Cross St Pancras.
St Albans. Hmm, food for thought.