I arrived in New York on Sunday after an uneventful flight. Middle seat dodged thanks to being flagged as a security risk by the US so for once, it was worth going through a security check!

Arriving into New York, the weather was unsettled and as I popped out to do a little browsing/shopping, there was a torrential downpour soaking everything and everyone within seconds.

I was stuck in a shop so bought a pair of flip flops in order to save my shoes. And then, still stuck I asked to buy an umbrella.

No luck in buying one but a nice guy working in J. Crew handed one of their store umbrellas to take with me. How lucky!

And so in torrential rain, wearing flip flops and carrying a blue umbrella emblazoned with J. Crew logos, I waded back to my hotel. And as I was crossing a road and went into a knee deep puddle, I almost lost a flip flop.

Rain, I’d forgotten!

Alcohol-free gin

I never thought I’d type the words, alcohol-free gin. It seems so wrong.

As a true lover of classic London gin, nothing fancy or spicy, no cucumber or nonsense, I thought I’d try Seedlip, an alcohol-free drink touted as a gin-alternative. I was having a dry week before going to New York and so I went in with a relatively open mind.

There are two varieties of Seedlip and I bought the Garden version. A clear distilled spirit, it looked suspiciously like an expensive bottle of water and when combined with ice and Fevertree tonic water, I felt it may have spoiled a very nice glass of tonic.

The flavour was a little strange, a bit of a mossy aftertaste and of course, there was none of that lovely feeling of alcohol hitting the arteries (spoken like a true drinker!)

I had a second glass to give it a fair go.

Overall it’s not a bad alternative to booze. It’s a mature flavour and not being sweet makes it quite drinkable. It did taste a bit like moss so I wouldn’t mind trying the Spice version to see what that’s like.

I suspect we may have this bottle in January when we get inspired to detox again.

In the meantime I think I prefer a nice glass of tonic, ice and lemon happily pretending it’s a gin and tonic.

Potential with a capital Pee

It was everything I could have hoped for.

Dirty, stained, run down, stinking of fags or cat pee or something. Barely habitable, peeling paint and wallpaper, with a handicapped bathroom and no kitchen to speak of. It was perfect!

But looking past that, French doors to a large communal garden, four bedrooms (which would become three), period features, storage and a minute’s walk from the park and the tube.

It would need complete refurbishment (could I really go through that again?) and the price was way too high for that but I loved it and who knows, it worked with France.

It goes without saying that it would be right up Big T’s alley and he’s being the voice of reason, not having seen it yet.

An excited realist.

If only we were French

This weekend was Bastille Day and France competing in the World Cup Final. Ah, if only we were French we could Vive La France with the rest of the country.

I have to confess that my interest in the World Cup wained after our dismal match against Croatia. I wasn’t interested in coming third (or fourth) and couldn’t watch the losers’ match against Belgium.

When it came to watching the final, I opted out. Big T went off to Valbonne to squeeze into the square and enjoy the ambiance while I decided to stay at home and relax away from the crowds. I heard the neighbours cheering at every goal so knew the score without being packed nose to tail.

Well done to France, I only wish it had been an England – France final, now that would have got me cheering!

Twenty seven loads of laundry

The Russians turned out to be Czechs and were very nice people. Three generations came to stay and they left the house in immaculate condition. If all Airbnb guests are like this, we’ll be pleased!

We used the money from the booking to install new lights in the olive trees so we sat outside last night to enjoy the new ambiance.

There were still twenty seven loads of laundry to do. Well, at least eight loads as there was bedding for five beds, nine towels, bath mats, tea towels and hand towels. The house had to be cleaned and reset for the group who arrive next weekend but as I won’t be here, everything needed to be done before.

The house was quite easy to reset, three hours of cleaning and bed making and it was pretty much ready. The washing took longer as everything had to be washed on a hot wash and dried in the sunshine. Luckily it’s finally summer and the crisp white bedding was soon dry with a faint scent of lavender drifting through it.

And so, after a weekend of swimming, cleaning, swimming, the house is all ready for the next group, the laundry is all folded and put away for the quick changeover we have in two weeks time and I’m heading back to London to get ready for New York with a flat viewing beforehand.

Deep breath, one day at a time…

Back to France

It’s been two weeks of Russian occupation.

Agnes spent a week staying with a nice family near Valbonne where she spent all day every day playing with children, hosepipes and water squirters. She sat on the sofa, was fed lasagna and a t-bone steak bone and she managed to catch a bird (now sadly deceased). She came home and slept for two days solid!

Big T spent a week in France watching football, catching up with family and friends and enjoying the best summer England’s seen in decades. He had to go back to France to recover!

I have spent two weeks in the UK going to work. Oh, hang on a minute?

I came back to France this morning as the Russians are vacating the house in the morning and the house needs to be washed, cleaned and reset for the group arriving next weekend. There are people splashing around in the pool and a large pink inflatable flamingo cluttering up our lovely garden.

Next weekend I’m off to New York for work before coming back to France from New York and cleaning everything again.

Loving my summer holidays!

Mansion Blocks

We have been continuing our search for a new flat as it seems our sale is progressing.

Solicitors have been instructed and a deposit has been paid. I have been to talk to the bank and have been approved for a new mortgage (in principle) so it seems we’ll need a new place to live.

We like the mansions blocks around Maida Vale and have looked at several flats so far. The biggest challenge is Agnes as we really need a ground floor flat with access outside. Most of the blocks have large communal gardens but ground floor flats are hard to come by.

So far our best options have been a gorgeous flat with a tiny shared balcony on the second floor. We were considering it until we remembered that it’s not always thirty degrees and could we face taking the dog up and down stairs in the inevitable rain for every wee.

The same concern applied to the fourth floor flat we looked at only worse as it needed complete refurbishment and four floors is a lot to climb up.

And then we found one which looked interesting. A large ground floor flat facing the Paddington Recreation Ground (a park we often use). On paper it looks like it needs a few walls bashing down (hurrah) and a new kitchen and bathroom to say the least. It’s expensive but could be interesting to have a look.

I did a cycle-by on my way home from work and loved the location so that’s a big plus and I’m going to see it on Tuesday so I’ll find out the reality.

The End of the Road

By mid week distraction was setting in, would we make it through to the final or would Croatia be too much?

It was classic England. M&S had sold out of waistcoats as the Gareth Southgate style took over.

At 4pm the internet went down at work and as a giant media company, we were left with 3G phones. Could it be sabotage? Was there a Croatian working in IT?

I decided that it was time to work from home as I had a video conference and so set off home with time for the meeting and the football.

It all started so well and by half time we were leading 1-0.

The second half seemed like a different game as Croatia evened the score and then with extra time, took the lead. It was all over for England, like a deflated football, we accepted defeat and it seems the waistcoat is out of style again.

Four years to go…

Hampton Court Palace

As the weekend continued, we decided to take advantage of even more hot weather and go to the flower show at Hampton Court. A first for us both.

We set off after the World Cup celebrations and arrived at Hampton Court by train and immediately saw the former palace of Henry VIII. Stunning.

We shuffled along with the rest of the crowd along the banks of the Thames absorbing England at her best and then spent a lovely time being inspired by the gardens, plants, flowers and scenery in the flower show.

After several refreshment breaks sitting on the grass, we thought we’d seen everything and decided we’d go home by boat to Richmond.

It was a good idea but one which seemed to take a long time to get started. Half an hour later we were back to where we’d started picking up some more people and then finally we set off to Kingston and eventually, Richmond.

In the end it was worth it as it was a glorious trip from Kingston upon Thames to Richmond. The sense of history along the banks of the river was apparent with old boat houses, Elizabethan chimneys and bridges spanning the girth of London’s lifeblood.

At least two hours later, extremely hot and arriving in Richmond we were happy to walk in the shade. Hopping on the underground we had a quick journey up to Paddington and then off to Queens Park, a few stops further.

Arriving home we thought we’d watch the Hampton Court Flower Show on BBC iPlayer so we could remember all the lovely gardens we’s seen… only to discover that somehow we’d managed to miss loads of them.

I’m not entirely sure how that happened but I suspect it may have had something to do with the World Cup. Still, we enjoyed what we saw and were very inspired with ideas for one part of our garden in France, the side garden where the monster laurel hedge has taken control.

More to come on that I’m sure.

The Day When Everything Happened

It was Saturday. It was 32 degrees (at least). It was Gay Pride in London. It was Wimbledon and above all, it was the World Cup Quarter Finals and England was playing Sweden. It goes without saying that the entire country went berserk.

We set off around midday in order to go berserk.

The plan was to watch the football over at Big T’s sister’s house with the rest of the clan. It was an epic game with the final score of 2-0 to England creating absolute havoc.

From there on it’s all a bit of a blur.

We played a table tennis tournament which resulted in a good bit of shouting. There was dancing including a video of people dancing to YMCA (for once, not me), there are some dubious photos and in the end there was a taxi ride home of which there is very little recollection. What happened to five hours?

And so with this surreal summer continuing on where each day dawns brighter and hotter than the last, the next step for England is Croatia on Wednesday in the Semi finals.

Can it keep getting better?