Hello Dolli(s) Hill

After listening to elephants playing hide and seek last Sunday afternoon for five hours, I decided that was it, we were going to look for a house.

It had been a wet afternoon and we were nice and cosy watching films when the upstairs flat decided to have friends with small children over and even worse, play hide and seek. As we hear every footstep anyway, it made our relaxing afternoon quite stressful as back and forth they ran for hours and our chandeliers rattled overhead. 

It’s one of the joys of a Victorian conversion where sound-proofing didn’t seem to be an option but with a communal front door slamming at all hours, hall lights going on at 4am and people running down the stairs at 6am, patience is wearing thin.

Of course, all this sounds horrendous but the reality is that houses in London are extremely expensive especially in the kind of areas we like and with that said, I went off to look at two houses in an area of North West London called Dollis Hill.

No, I’d never heard of it either but houses can be bought for well under a million pounds which in London sounds like a bargain!

I decided to walk with Agnes (Big T having gone to Germany for the weekend) and it took us an hour to get there. I’m not sure why as it’s apparently only three miles away but we eventually arrived. The area itself has a lovely park, Gladstone Park which has views of Wembley Stadium, distant views of the Shard, a duck pond, tennis courts and the remains of the house where Mark Twain lived. 

The houses we saw were also lovely. Victorian terraces with four bedrooms, loft conversions, lots of space and character. One of them I loved and could have moved in immediately. It really was my ideal home.

And yet, doing a reconnaissance of the area, there was nothing else there. No shops, cafes, organic vegetable shops, over-priced artisanal bakeries, no M&S. None of the conveniences that we’re used to living in Queen’s Park and nothing to walk to. We could go to the park or be at home, that would be it.

The ongoing conversation continues, do we stay where we are and suffer the ongoing drip torture from above, move to the suburbs in search of a house with nothing around or take the plunge and move out beyond the M25 and into the world beyond where seasonal rail tickets cost £5000 and commuting takes three hours a day?

Decisions, decisions!


Day 19

Booze free for nineteen days and I’m loving it! 

Smugness factor about a million percent as my eyes look blue (instead of grey) and alive (instead of polluted). 

I’ve had more sleep in the last month than I’ve probably had in years. My mood has been incredibly balanced and happy, no stress seems to be touching me and I’m finding a lot of things hilarious which would normally cause anxiety (deadlines and demands).

In addition to going booze free, I’ve introduced the breakfast supplemental smoothie which combines all sorts of things from bee pollen to acai powder, blueberries and maca. 

I’m not sure what’s having the most impact but I’m tempted to stay sober… if only it were possible!

Back to Mud Slinging

Last night was my first week back at Mud Slinging… this time the advanced class! 

I had some trepidation to be honest, had I really progressed that much in the twelve weeks of wonky cylinders?

My fears were laid to rest when I walked into the studio and found six of my original classmates all having the same concern. We had a new teacher and I would say, first impressions were very good indeed. It would seem we could work on anything we wanted so it was on with bowls and cylinders for me.

Warm up cylinder

One of the added challenges up until now has been working right handed. I’m fairly ambidextrous so having talked to the new teacher, it seemed like a good time to have a go at reversing the wheel.

Right handed bowl

Standard throwing is done anti-clockwise except in Japan where throwing is done clockwise. Left handers throw clockwise and so it was time to have a go at throwing Japanese!

And so off I went…

The left handed pot… turning to come

In this year of Integrity I’m aiming for quality over quantity and so threw back a couple of pieces which didn’t cut the mustard but over all, I felt more confident in starting off and will continue left handed next week to see how things progress.

Back on the wheel!

The India Club

Down on the Strand not far from Charing Cross, is the Hotel Strand Continental, home to the India Club, a relic from the 1950s for Asian ex-pats. A very desirable property, the India Club is under threat of closure so we’ve been for dinner a couple of times to support it and have to say, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Up a cold, lino stairway is a warm, cosy bar and one flight further is the restaurant. Chairs are reminiscent of a village hall and about as comfortable and tables are old Formica. The atmosphere is relaxed and the food is good, and by London standards, cheap.

Both times we’ve been, we’ve eaten for about £20 a head with several starters and main courses, rice and naan. The dahl is authentic with mustard seeds visible and takes me back to Sri Lanka immediately.

We ate more than we needed but it was all very delicious and warming and as we’re sticking to Dry January, all washed down with a mango lassi so not very slimming!

Almost like being in India!

Sofa Surfing

This weekend it was back to Laura Ashley as we need to play musical sofas in France.

We now have the Caretaker’s Cottage ready to be furnished and so we decided over Christmas that we’d move the current sofa from the living room to the downstairs. One problem solved and with a handy tape measure, we’re optimistic it will fit.

Then we thought we’d buy two new sofas for the living room which would mean we wouldn’t have to sit as though we’re waiting for a bus. Extravagant but with the Laura Ashley January sale, we could buy two sofas for the price of one. Bargain or not?

And so off we went, back on the bus to Westfield, a strange sense of dêja-vu. 

It was all quite easy, we looked at fabric, choose a pale hedgerow green to break with the traditional duck egg, whipped out a credit card and the deed was done. Again, the challenge will be to get two large sofas in through our tiny front door and then get them down to the south of France. We’ll throw in another bed and the big furniture will be done.

We’re now in shock and have put in austerity measures for the next month. At least we won’t be buying sofas again!

Booze Free

Along with three million other lemmings in the UK, we’re doing our fourth Dry January. This involves not drinking as well as healthy eating (with integrity!) to start the new year off well. How dull!

After a couple of weeks one’s eyes look clear again and the smugness starts to set in. After a month, the temptation is to keep going but inevitably something comes up which requires alcohol and while intentions were always good to become tee-total, one falls off the wagon and so it goes on…

So far this year is no different. I’m at the stage of seeing my eyes brighten, my sleep improve and generally feel good. I anticipate feeling smug by the weekend and bored by January 25th!

Maybe this time will be different!

On the road again… reluctantly

I have been forced back on to my bike as the Camden Town tube station is closed until March from 4-7pm every weekday in order to put in a new escalator. This is completely outrageous but there you go, I have no alternative.

As I dusted off my trusty steed, dressed for warmth over style and took to the streets, it wasn’t that bad, at least in the morning. It’s the night cycling when things get interesting…

Here we go again!

Back to London by rail

In a moment of madness I volunteered to forego my EasyJet flight to London and accompany Big T and Agnes on the journey of insanity back to London taking many more hours than flying. What was I thinking?!

We started at 8:30am with a taxi to Antibes, had to wait for almost two hours for the delayed train to arrive (due to an accident on the track), missed our connection in Paris and managed to get the last train to Calais. I rescheduled our dog taxi pick-up en route for an additional £42 and negotiated a drop-off at Ashford International for an extra £20. 

What this all added up to was a very expensive journey, all to get the dog back into the UK and avoid going on the ferry. Each time I do it, I declare we’ll be buying a car and this time was no different!

We arrived home at 10:45pm. All things considered, we felt pretty good and even with the delay, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the ferry and eight trains. 

Still, perhaps we’ll be looking at cars this weekend!

Free Furniture

One evening, driving through Le Rouret, we spotted some old furniture out on the side of the road and so, of course, stopped for a look.

There was an old brown chest of drawers which looked a bit tatty but we thought it was worth taking to see if we could do anything with it. After all, free stuff is good stuff.

Hard to see, brown chest of drawers

I decided to break with our traditional grey and so, on a whim bought a dusty pink called Marrons Glacé. After cleaning all the dead spiders off, I sanded and painted and the tired old discarded chest of drawers cleaned up remarkably well. Perfect for our downstairs apartment.

After the makeover

Just waiting for the bed

All we need to do now is play musical beds as we move a bed from upstairs down and move a bed from London to France… maybe!

Rognons or Fondue

To celebrate (or commiserate) our last night in what has now become our very cosy winter home, we went out for drinks with a few friends in Valbonne and then off to our local Auberge du Clos des Pins in Roquefort for dinner.

My French has dropped off since attempting the French Conversation group last autumn and it’s fair to say I’ve suffered a crisis of confidence. Hopefully this is only temporary and having learned a new word by disastrous ordering, I’m feeling somewhat inspired to get back on the cheval.

It turned out that rognons of veau were veal kidneys. Not a word to be forgotten in a hurry and certainly not something I would ever be able to eat. Big T gallantly stepped in and ate the offending rognons, despite disliking them intensely himself which goes to show what kind of person he is.

This week it also turned out that fondeur meant cross-country skier as opposed to a restaurant serving fondue, something we learned when attempting to order fondue the other day only to discover it wasn’t on the menu…

It would appear that learning French needs to be resumed post haste.