A new bike

In order to distract myself, I rashly ordered a new bike… without even riding it. Oops.

I’ve been looking and looking for a bike just like the one I own except it doesn’t weigh the same as a baby elephant. 

Me in a hat?

Hours of diligent research paid off when I discovered Cooper Bikes. The same company as the original Mini Cooper, they make a stunning women’s bike. I saw it and knew it was the bike for me (umm, memories of the pincushion?) And so without trying it, I ordered it. This should be interesting!

The most perfect bike

 It has an aluminium frame and weighs only 10kg. That’s six whole kilos less than the Purple Duchess. Imagine carrying that up six flights of stairs!

But wait, could that only be two and a half flights of stairs??

Best and final… again

And so back to Flat Hunting…

We made our opening offer on Monday and were told there were four other offers on the table, all at asking price and so we were going to best and final offers by 2pm on Wednesday.

This is where one makes up a random number and emails it blindly to the estate agent having absolutely no idea what the other bidders are doing. It’s incredibly frustrating but the only thing to do is decide how much one can afford to pay rather than getting swept up in the moment and offering above one’s means.

We emailed our offer this morning. It was our best and highest offer on anything so far and leaves us with 1p left in the bank. Luckily the flat doesn’t need much doing to it.

And so having prayed to the housing gods, done a visualization of us living in the flat, imagining the oasis we would create on the roof terrace, we now leave it up to fate (or the estate agent) to determine if this one is indeed meant to be.

Hopefully we’ll know later this afternoon.


After a nice Sunday lunch at The Washington on England’s Lane, we hopped on the C11 bus to West Hampstead where we thought we’d do a little reconnaissance before making an offer on the new flat.

West Hampstead, in particular, West End Lane is a lovely road with cafes, restaurants and pubs, plenty of choices and a nice crowd of people. Not too many prams, no rowdy types, and so we were feeling quite positive!

We walked up Mill Lane where things became a little quieter but still, a twee Cath Kitson-inspired tea shop, a pub in need of a little gentrification across the road and a selection of small, independent shops, cafes and it seemed, a community.

We still felt positive. The flat (The Mansions) is above a row of shops and looks a little bit tatty from the outside. Not a bad thing as it could put off other buyers (we hope) but we know what the inside held and above all, an absolutely spectacular view of London.

Reconnaissance done, we hopped on the bus, came home and typed up our offer ready for tomorrow.

Here we go again. We are nothing if not persistent!

Eyes on the Prize

Saturday morning and like lambs to the slaughter we set off to view four more flats. 

We had seen a lovely two bedroom cottage on Thursday evening which we both loved but disagreed over the area. Was Cricklewood up-and-coming or was it a complete shithole? We were divided but we did agree that while the area smelled very nasty, the cottage was gorgeous. How picturesque Campion Terrace sounded but oh the reality.

I was prepared to take a punt on Cricklewood despite the daily challenge of not being mugged but we were still going to look at four more flats in West Hampstead anyway, just in case. 

And there it was at last. After a year and a half of despondent flat hunting, we finally found a flat with a view to rival Chalk Farm. With two big double bedrooms and a large open roof terrace with views south towards London, it was everything we’d been looking for. And it was even in a nice area with antique shops and florists. 

We’re seriously burned after our previous experiences but perhaps this is the prize for surviving. The offer goes in tomorrow and we really, really, really hope it’s third time lucky.

Surely we deserve it this time?

Up, up and away!

I had thought a useless midlife hobby was on the cards. While toying with the idea of taking up ceramics, I had mentioned that perhaps I would also learn to fly and so Letad organized my first hour long lesson for my birthday. 

After the obligatory flat hunting on Saturday morning and lunch in West Hampstead (more to come on that), we set off to Essex to the Stapleford Flight Centre where I was apparently going to fly a Cessna. Yikes!

Things were running a little behind schedule so we sat and waited in the sunshine. A grey start to the day had cleared up and it was a lovely sunny, Autumnal afternoon. Small planes buzzed overhead and one did acrobatics flying loop de loops and death spirals.

Eventually Steve the flying instructor and I set off. It was a two seater Cessna so Letad waited at the clubhouse while we fueled up and went through the extensive check-list.

And then we were poised at the end of the grass runway. With the throttle out we picked up speed and we were up. It took no effort, the little plane wanted to fly.

Before long we were over Southend with the Thames Estuary below us. To the right was London and beyond Southend, the sea.

I took the controls and tried not to grip too hard. It was a little like driving and a little like sailing until the first bump which was a little like panic! It was quite surreal and while I felt quite tense I tried to relax and get a sense of how to control the plane. 

I banked to the right (yikes, we’re falling) straightened up, turned left and tried to maintain a course (not as easy as it sounds as it was surprisingly easy to drift upwards).

As the end of the hour approached we flew back to the airfield and gently descended to the runway below. A gradual, soft landing and we were back on the ground and with a very short taxi, we parked and got out.

It turned out Steve had worked on yachts in the south of France, knew Valbonne and was a former MGB GT owner (as was I) so we had a few things to chat about. He was a great instructor and one I would highly recommend.

And so the question is, would I go back for more?

It’s tempting to get my PPL (private pilot license) and fly to France. It takes about 45 hours of flying and costs around £6500. Over the course of a year, I don’t think that’s too bad. The downside, it was a long way to go for an hour of flying. Food for thought.

I did enjoy it and another life skill never hurts!

Up, up and away!

The Middle Ages

I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday this year. It was what I would call true middle age and if one lives till 90, that would tell you my age. 

Forty five. It’s the beginning of the downward slope. More grey hair and wrinkles despite feeling as though I have enough and don’t need any more. The slowing metabolism which makes it harder and harder to maintain the ideal weight and involves eating lots of bloody salad. It’s all incredibly dull and no one tells you how much aging sucks! 

I managed to get through the day at work without anyone realizing which would say something about my state of mind. 

After work Letad took me for a drink at the top of CentrePoint, one of the first high rise buildings in London. 
View to the west
If the gin didn’t help, apparently I could throw myself off the top. All options covered it would seem. 
Panoramic view towards the river
The good news was that the view was amazing. 360 degree views of London on one of the clearest days of the year. We could see everything for miles around. It was early evening and the late summer sunset bathed the city in a golden light. 

I decided not to jump (there wasn’t an open window) and instead had my favourite Sipsmith gin and tonic. After the second one I didn’t think I looked too bad… for my age. 

We left the view as night fell and the city lights came on and off we went into the mayhem and chaos of Soho on a Friday night in search of dinner. 

St Paul de Vence

From the A8 as you drive towards Valbonne from Nice, there’s a small village perched on a hillside. Despite numerous trips to the region, I had never been to St Paul de Vence.

On a slightly overcast day, we decided to take a break from lying on beaches under the best invention, the beach umbrella and go and see the fortified village perched on the hill.

Stairs between the walls

The tiny cobbled road wound around the hillside, past the tiny shops, numerous (bad) art galleries, cafes and restaurants. Miniature staircases lead up through the thick stone walls to the top of the village, the church tower.

The end of the road

It was certainly one of the prettiest villages I’ve been to in the area, perfect for all things lavender and a must see for anyone visiting.

St Paul de Vence has attracted painters throughout the years including Chagall and Picasso. Sadly the art today is less appealing and some horrors were seen through the windows of many a gallery along the way.

Thankfully offsetting the art were vintage French signs which restored my design sensibilities somewhat.

French charm

One of the highlights of the village was the graveyard. With a panoramic view of the mountains in one direction and the Mediterranean in the other, it wouldn’t be a bad place to end up. Exactly what Marc Chagall thought as apparently he’d got there first.

Graveyard with a view
The grave of Marc Chagall

I have liked and appreciated Chagall’s work for many years and it was a lovely experience to go to a place where he’d lived and worked. 

We stopped for a baguette and perched on the wall with a spectacular view of the mountains beyond.

From St Paul de Vence we wound our way down the hillside pausing in a tiny village called La Colle sur Loup to look at antique shops and do a little spontaneous brocanting. Or so we thought. It turned out that La Colle sur Loup was, in fact, the home of the four hour lunch break. Closed from 11:30am to 3:30pm for lunch, it did seem slightly over the top.

Despite that, and despite not going brocanting, it had been another glorious day exploring the South of France.

Next time though, try opening the shop!