British Summertime

It’s officially summertime, the clocks have gone forward and it was light till after 7pm tonight. After months of darkness at 4pm, this is the joy of spring!

I’ve started using my cashmere sleep mask in the mornings as otherwise it’s a 5am start to the day. Morning walks around Regents Park are now back on and with daffodils, spring blossom and lots of magpies (not sure why), Spring is definitely in the air!

It’s hard to believe, it was snowing this time last year!

A Boat Trip to Greenwich

With a large Victoria sponge in the house, there was only one thing to do. I had to go out. 

It was Mother’s Day and nice weather so London would be bustling, flowers were being bought and mothers were being lunched. I decided to go to Greenwich. For someone who hates crowds, possibly a bad decision. 

Firstly though, choose a mode of transport. I debated cycling but then decided I would go by boat, something I’d never done in London and so something of a novelty. 

I got the tube to Embankment Pier and bought a ticket to Greenwich. Shuffling on to the boat, it was busy but an advantage of being alone meant that the polite seat where someone didn’t want to sit next to someone else was mine!

We were off. The Thames is a tidal river with a strong current. It’s wide and brown and very busy. I wouldn’t fancy rowing on it. 

HMS Belfast & The Shard

From the river the view is fantastic. First stop, the London Eye, the slowest moving Ferris wheel in the world, and then it was the industrial Tate modern, past elegant St. Paul’s, Shakepeare’s Globe theatre, Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London and finally under iconic Tower Bridge. Every possible landmark including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Canary Wharf all for the bargain price of £5.85. Definitely worth it and not the slightest bit tiring. 

Half of Tower Bridge
After Tower Bridge the captain put his foot down and with the occasional wave breaking over the stern, we soon arrived in Greenwich. 
Tower Bridge and Ensign

We disembarked at the newly restored Cutty Sark and as expected, the streets of Greenwich were full. It was like being in Camden!

I headed to the National Maritime Museum to see an exhibition of Turner and the Sea. I’ve been a fan of J. M. W. Turner for a while, as expected, good skies and some very good seas. turner-and-the-sea

I did have a little gripe to myself about how close people stand to paintings. For one thing, it’s impossible to see the whole painting and if people stepped back, everyone else could see (said with a clenched fist while standing on a soapbox!) I tried to set a good example by standing eight feet back but people kept standing in front of me.

Up to the Observatory
Mother’s Day picnics (it wasn’t that warm actually)

After the exhibition I wandered through Greenwich Market (too many people and too crafty for me) and then after a wander to the park and a look up at the observatory I decided it was time to head back to North London. I jumped on the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) again a new experience and before I knew it I was home.

It was just the right time for a nice cup of tea and, oh go on then, a piece of cake.

Happy Mother’s Day!

A Taste of Summer

Saturday and the first really warm day arrived. 19 degrees! I decided to walk to my newly-discovered independent fruit and vegetable shop and stock up for the week. Ripe avocados, the joy! 

Camden was heaving with tourists and I was feeling a little hot by the time I got home. Ready for a sit down. 

And so I lounged decadently on the roof terrace reading a book until it felt like it was time for tea. The only thing missing, cake. 

When I was young(er) I used to bake quite a lot, sponge being one of my favourite things. And really there’s nothing better than a Victoria Sponge, strawberry jam and cream marrying an airy, light sponge with a hint of vanilla. So delicious. 

And so having set my mind to it, that was it. I trotted off to Morrisons to buy cake tins, flour, butter, vanilla essence, sugar and eggs. It definitely wasn’t the gluten/dairy free version!

I measured everything painstakingly by the tablespoon (really must buy some kitchen scales as tablespoons of butter are quite challenging to measure) and mixed everything together by hand (an electric mixer would be useful too!) All looked good and into the oven it went. 

It was a little denser than perfection but with a layer of strawberry jam and slightly runny clotted cream, it was the taste of summer on a plate. I confess, I indulged. 
My First Victoria Sponge… 

Unfortunately Letad’s not back till Tuesday, I’m not sure how much will be left by then. 

After all, it was really good for breakfast!

No Complaints

Thursday morning, the toilet is unblocked and I actually have nothing to complain about!

Work is going well, the flat purchase actually seems to be progressing and we’re renting out The Little House above the Boulangerie for the summer. And I’ve even come to genuinely love the giant pin cushion. How lucky that I bought it without seeing it!

I’m off to France in a couple of weeks to prepare the house for the first paying guests. It means decluttering and hard work but also a chance to go brocanting and enjoy two weeks in France!

Looking forward to it!


And so the gripping excitement finally came to an end as the plumber arrived and cleared the toilet. His trusty device… a rubber disk screwed on to a wooden broom handle. Damn the wily shopkeeper. I shall be making one this weekend.

Back to normal, apart from my stomach.

The Illusion of Perfection

The day dawned bright and sunny. I awoke early to discover I had a stomach upset. Possibly one the worst moments of timing.

The challenge of what to do with an unflushable toilet and the forces of nature. I can’t go into the details, it’s too horrific to recount but let’s just say I had to get creative…

Thankfully Letad’s in France this week or the illusion of perfection would be shattered!

Another Day, Another Plunger

6am and I was up and emptying the toilet with a large yogurt pot. I then returned to bed with a cup of tea to await the urge.

7:30am and I was off to the Early Bird Cafe. I was indeed the early bird and they kindly let me use the toilet. I bought a croissant, it was going to be a long day.

8:00am and I was at the hardware store buying my second plunger. This one was a black plastic concertina which looked like something for artificially inseminating cows. The wily shopkeeper tried to sell me a flat rubber disk screwed to a wooden handle for £10 but I wasn’t falling for that trick again. The cow inseminator cost me £17.50. It had better last for the rest of my life. I did ask if I could return it if it didn’t work. No response.

Back at the little flat, I did a little enthusiastic plunging but to no avail. I caved in and rang the useless property manager who has never managed to repair anything in the time I’ve lived here. Still useless, I’m soldiering on alone.

On my way to work I ran into the porter’s underling who suggested using a mop. So that’s the evening’s fun sorted out.

And so after work and a trip to the acupuncturist (I was quite relaxed), I returned and again syphoned the water from the toilet with the large yogurt pot. I inserted the cow inseminator (nothing) and then mopped the toilet. The intention was to create suction but instead it absorbed the remaining sewage from the bowl. Shit covered mop, clean toilet.

I didn’t trust it and sure enough a couple of hours later, the water was cloudy and brown again. My shit kit (cow inseminator, mop, yogurt pot and small Dijon mustard jar for the bottom bit) sits in the bath and the smell has permeated my nostrils.

And so another night looms and hopefully in the morning, a plumber will arrive.
To flush or not to flush…

The Various Uses of Yogurt Pots

Warning: Contains graphic content. Do not read while eating.

The toilet was blocked. Badly. Things were very nasty.
I went out at lunchtime and bought a plunger.

Arriving home late after a three hour video conference, I rolled up my sleeves, put on a pair of pink rubber gloves and plunged.

Nothing happened except for water deepening both in colour and in stench. Always remember to keep one’s mouth shut in these circumstances.

I plunged again. This time the plunger turned inside out and split. A very poor quality product indeed.

I took a large yogurt pot and manually siphoned off the water (and nasty bits) into the bath. Possibly one of the nastiest things possible. Hopefully the bath wouldn’t block too.

I reached the bottom in so many ways. I stood and pondered the situation. Should I flush and risk overflow or hope that flushing might help?

Life on the edge, I flushed. The water flowed clean into the bowl but the level was still dangerously high.

I decided to leave it for the night.
It would appear there are other uses for yogurt pots.

An evening at the station

Friday evening and we met up at the fabulous Booking Office Bar at St Pancras station, one of the most impressive Gothic buildings in London.

Entry to the station
It was the 81st birthday of the Dad of Letad and we were taking him out for a meal to celebrate the auspicious date. 
The Booking Office Bar

The hotel has been recently renovated and has been transformed from a derelict waste of beauty into an architectural gem and a true testament to Gothic architecture in all its glory. 

St Pancras – often mispronounced. Not Pancreas
We ate in the Gilbert Scott restaurant, named after the architect and what a pleasant evening was had by all. thegilbertscott
The renovated hotel stairs

KMo was given strict budget instructions as to what he was allowed to order and so we started by sharing a delicious smoked salmon platter with pickles and creme fraiche. 

The Dad of Letad and I both scored as we ordered a most delicious Wigmore and onion pie with girolles mushrooms. Wigmore is a Berkshire soft cheese so a hearty and tasty pie was perfect for a damp March evening. 

The Gilbert Scott

We ended with a traditional sticky toffee pudding between the three of us and then surprise, the maître d’ had been eavesdropping and brought out a birthday treat with truffles and a candle. We offered to sing but luckily it wasn’t necessary. 

We ended the evening by bidding farewell as we boarded the underground, some of us bound for Chalk Farm, the other to Turnpike Lane. North Londoners all. It had been a lovely evening.

Happy Birthday KMo!

The Extremely Large Pin Cushion

Note to self, always look at a picture of a product so you know what you’re ordering…

After waiting a year to order the Christmas ottoman, saving up carefully and finally ordering it in December and waiting three months for it to be ready, this week turned into the Great Christmas Ottoman Saga. 

I had been phoned and told it had arrived. Fantastic! Letad and I made plans to collect it and were just about to set off to collect the long-awaited ottoman when I received a call from Liberty to tell me they couldn’t find it. What? I wasn’t exactly thrilled.

Four days and one slightly irate customer later, Liberty found the footstool (as they kept referring to it) and agreed to deliver said ottoman in a taxi. 

The ottoman arrived by disgruntled taxi driver and to my enormous surprise and great disappointment, Liberty hadn’t read my mind. I’d always imagined the ottoman would be a large rectangle. 

Who would have thought it would be circular?! I couldn’t believe Liberty was selling a round footstool with a rectangular sofa – what a travesty of design! 
My lovely new rectangular ottoman… not.
Introducing the giant pin cushion!
I was gutted. I’d waited for fifteen months, there was no return on custom made orders and I was going to be stuck with an enormous pin cushion on legs. The added bonus… it’s so well made it will last for the rest of my life!

It was my own fault and as Letad pointed out (in a moment of great male stupidity) perhaps it would have been a good idea to look at a picture before ordering… Yes, yes, all very well after the fact. There’s nothing like being told “I told you so” when you realize you’ve just made a massive mistake.

After a few hours of self flagellation, I decide to embrace the pin cushion. After all, who knows, one day it might become a very expensive dog bed!

Loving the giant pin cushion!