February 2018 Things

February felt like a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of month.  It was very admin-heavy – I managed to book my Miami flights which I’m SUPER excited for, started finalising plans for a visit to Dublin in the summer, and booked part of the secret trip for Husband’s birthday.  Lots of boxes ticked.

The Nix
I spent most of the month reading Nathan Hill’s The Nix – an epic story that spanned decades and almost constantly caught me by surprise.  I really hope the TV show happens as there were so many filmic elements.  As much as I love quickly whizzing through several books a month, it’s good to let one stop me in my tracks every so often.

Early mornings
I’ve had a few early mornings this month with training courses up in London, and a meeting in the very north of England.  I couldn’t do it regularly as I am really not a morning person, but it’s fun every so often especially when I get to see the sunrise on the way to the train station.  My trip to the north involved a very early flight from Heathrow, followed by a four hour meeting, and then enough time for an amazing facial before a flight home – the facial made it totally worth my while (but only slightly alleviated my carbon footprint guilt…)

We’ve been clearing out our study as the hoarding levels have become almost unacceptable.  Opening boxes has mostly been uneventful, but when I got to the box containing my university work, the nostalgia left me breathless.  I loved both of my degrees, but my first shaped so much of my personality, particularly the Men’s and Women’s Cinema modules led by my favourite Academic, Stella Bruzzi.  They’re the reason I became a feminist, and I don’t know who I’d be now if I hadn’t taken those classes.

In the end, I kept the module lists and only threw away the associated material that came with it.  I just couldn’t get rid of everything as it had all had such a lasting impact on me.  It felt wrong to destroy such a huge part of my history.

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale
I was so sad when The Soup was cancelled a few years ago.  It became our Sunday lunchtime treat and the weekends have never quite felt the same without it.  When we read that Joel McHale had a new show starting on Netflix in February, we had our fingers crossed that it would contain elements of The Soup.  It certainly looked like it might, but there was always the concerns that they would want to do something radically different.

But it’s basically exactly the same and I LOVE IT!

After many months of pining over snow photos from the rest of the UK, it finally started to snow here at the end of Feb.  Whilst we didn’t have a substantial amount, it was enough to make me giddy.  We even managed a bit of a snow day (well, snow afternoon).  Sadly, it hasn’t stuck around, but at least my journey to work on Monday will feature significantly less skidding around.

A Room for London

OK, where did February go?  I had all these posts planned in my head, but none appeared to have made it to my blog.  Normal service will resume, but first I want to reminisce for a bit.

I noticed on Twitter this week that the Room for London had reached the end of it’s life on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Regular Southbank visitors will know this as the boat on the roof, but it holds a special place in my heart as we spent a night there during it’s first year.

Although it changed to a ballot system in subsequent years, I managed to wangle our stay by manically refreshing the webpage when the nights were released online (whilst simultaneously screaming at everyone in my office to STOP DISTRACTING ME).  I was phenomenally lucky, and Husband was so excited when I revealed to him where we’d be spending our wedding anniversary.

We picked up our key, were taken through a bright yellow door to get to the secret lift, and then we were on the roof!  I loved how temporary everything felt on the outside along the ramshackle walkway, but the inside was beautiful.

We spent the afternoon taking photos and watching the world go by (with a quick visit to a James Bond exhibition at the Barbican in the afternoon), before popping down to the Wahaca below for dinner.  As the sun set, we practised our night photography on the balcony, wrote our entry in the log book, had a wonderful shower with Ren products, and snuggled up in the comfy bed.  Despite being such a small space, it had everything we needed – I could easily have locked myself in, refused to leave, and lived there forever.

There were no curtains to close, so we woke up to beautiful sunshine and went back up to the balcony for a memorable breakfast.

Husband and I have stayed at many incredible places during our relationship, but this was definitely one of my favourites.  I did try my luck again in the ballot on a couple of occasions, but we were destined to only have one night at the Roi des Belges.  I will miss seeing the happy wind turbines on the skyline, and I hope they find somewhere else for it to live.  Maybe once it’s settled, we’ll get the chance to stay again.

See my full photo set on my Flickr account.
Find out more about the A Room for London at living-architecture.co.uk.

January 2018 Things

Husband persuaded me to use some of my precious leave for the first week of January so I had a very quiet start to 2018.  Still managed a couple of things to get me out of the house though!

Celtic Manor – again
The Celtic Manor has rapidly become our hotel of choice for last minute breaks.  We managed to fit in afternoon tea and I had an incredibly relaxing Elemis facial where I managed to suppress my ongoing cough for a whole hour.  I was quite impressed with myself.  On the way home from Cardiff, we managed to fit in a visit to the McArthur Glen Outlet in Swindon (of course) but also Ikea – it was a breeze as everyone else had gone back to work.

Everyman Esher
I love an Everyman.  When Husband demands I see a Star Wars or a Bond with him, I will only go if he can promise it’s going to be an Everyman.  Esher is our fifth different branch – to be honest, it’s not really that close to us, but we felt like a change and couldn’t be bothered to go all the way into London.  We had an excellent hot dog and fries, I bought a bucket of popcorn, and we settled into the sofa in their beautiful art deco screen.  I was a little worried as there were a bunch of children scattered around the auditorium, but Husband actually enjoyed listening to their animated chatter about his favourite franchise.

As for the film – eh, it was ok.

Sara Pascoe – LadsLadsLads
I love her.

Network at the National Theatre
An astonishing piece of work which I have yet to write about (I need to get on that).

Coffee and fries in Brighton
Someone in my team went to Brighton for the weekend and I recommended she visit BeFries because it’s just the best.  I told Husband that we were talking about those beautiful Belgian fries at work, and the next thing I knew, we’d booked a weekend away at The Grand.

An entire weekend break just to eat fries.  I can’t think of a better reason.

Sara Pascoe – LadsLadsLads

On Friday, I dragged myself out of my self-imposed winter hibernation for a trip into London.  On the agenda – dinner, Sara Pascoe at the Wyndhams Theatre, and light installations.

This is the third time I’ve seen Sara, and further continuation of realising how much I identify with her which I first realised after seeing her in 2016.  Admittedly there was slightly less for me to hook into in LadsLadsLads as the show started with the break-up of her last relationship but there was still plenty of “THAT’S ME!” moments even down to her pre-gig/interval music which was basically my Spotify playlist).

There was such an intimacy to her show which I can imagine some people would feel uncomfortable with, and there was certainly some awkward laughter from some of the audience.  At one point, she said there was only two reasons to stand up in front of people – if you make them laugh, that’s comedy but if you don’t, it’s a TED talk but I really felt like Sara’s show was both – when she wasn’t offering funny insights, she was giving us thoughtful comments, all interwoven into a story with multiple call backs.  I adore a comedian that gives me a fully-fleshed story alongside the giggles.

I also want to commend her spectacular heckler management.  I despise idiots who make unsolicited noises in gigs whether positive or negative, and I cringed every time this idiot woman whooped.  It’s so selfish and I will never understand it.  Sara has perfected the art of a perfect withering look though.

An interesting angle for me (and probably loads of others as well), is that I’ll be hearing the other side of the break-up when I see her ex-boyfriend in a couple of weeks.  Based on the fact that I almost cried on a number of occasions in Sara’s set, I’m already preparing myself emotionally for that.

After the show, Tim and I searched out some light installations from Lumiere London.  I’ve missed it on previous years, and only saw a small bit of this year but it’s better than nothing!  We down the South Bank and saw OSC-L, Light on Their Feet, and possibly others too but my favourite was Vertigo by Danish Company The Wave.

I didn’t have my camera on me so all my shots are appalling, but I loved walking through the triangular tunnel.  It’s a real shame Lumiere is only on for the weekend as it would have been great to see it in daylight as well.

Project 365 – 2017

I’ve been taking a photo every day for 7 years now.  I’ve managed to train myself so that it feels weird not taking a photo – I’ll admit, sometimes I’ll get to the end of a unremarkable day so I take a panic photo, but at least the photo is representative of the day!

Instagram has definitely helped, but I have got very lazy in relying on my phone – I must make more of an effort with my camera, so I might treat myself to a new lens this year.  Picking out my favourite memories from the year was a little hard as I don’t think I’ve had a particularly memorable 2017, but let’s look back.

January started slowly with a new Eve mattress and my very first Grensons, plus a work trip to Birmingham.  I did have a lot of work trips this year, but nothing as epic as the one in February – over to Florida for an amazing conference which is possibly my favourite thing from the whole year.  I followed this up with a couple of days in New York where I did nothing but blissful shopping.  I finished my management course in March with a lot of typing and spent a two weeks on my own as it was Husband’s turn to be away for work.  April saw two mini-breaks to Brighton and I faced my professional fear of presenting in front of an entire lecture theatre full of sector peers.  Boy, was I nervous.

Back over the Atlantic in May for a family trip to Miami where I introduced my Mum to Surfside – of course, she loved it.  June was fairly uneventful (I’m ignoring the general election) but I managed to continue the Miami vibe by seeing Footloose in beachy themed room in Liberty.  We aroused suspicion again by going to the USA for a third time as we visited New York for the 4th July – they love their fireworks.  And August was the month we bought a new car (although he didn’t arrive for another few months).

The start of semester in September is always crazy busy, but I managed to fit in a Richard Ayoade talk and a couple of back stage tours on the South Bank.  October introduced us to our new garden fox, Little Lord Stinky Butt but was also the start of my epic cold which is still lingering now.  I fell in love with Dungeness in November, and we collected our new baby (our Audi Q3, Murdock).  And the less said about December the better, what with all the sneezing and coughing (oh my god, the endless coughing).

And onto 2018 – hopefully with significantly less coughing.

December Things

December 2017 will be remembered as the month I sat around feeling sorry for myself.  The last post I made was about how I thought I had bronchitis – apparently, it’s “just” a cough, albeit a cough which made me actually vomit during a meeting at work (oh god, the shame).  Just when I thought it was getting better, I then picked up another cold which has made my cough worse again, so spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s on the sofa.

It’s so ridiculous and pathetic – I’m normally such a well person, so I can’t really understand why I’m so run down.  At least I have another week off work for more lying around feeling sorry for myself.

There were some highlights in December though.

Crafty Fox at the Mercato Metropolitano
The perfect timing for some Christmas gifts, I met up with an old friend to visit the Crafty Fox market which was held at the Mercato Metropolitano which is just gorgeous.  I wish I had another reason to visit Elephant and Castle – they currently have a Backyard Cinema there but I think they’re mostly booked up.

As for the market, I managed to get a lot of gifts there, and some fun things for myself.  I do love a Craft Fox event.

Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar
I normally blog about this weekly, but I just did not have the energy.  It was packed with all the usual goodies, with some new items like the iconic Brazilian Bum Bum Cream and QMS Medicosmetics.  It does feel like a lot more items have gone to my Mum than in previous years, so maybe this one hasn’t been as good?  Still enjoyable though.

I mentioned last year that Christmas has become incredibly difficult for me to cope with but circumstances this year meant I was able to have a very quiet Christmas day with both my in-laws and my Mum (and Husband of course).  We didn’t go insane with gifts or anything like that – the commercialism of the holiday is getting truly ridiculous and makes me feel quite uncomfortable at times.  That said, I did get the latest Mr Jones Watch for my collection which I was incredibly grateful for.  It was a very relaxed and peaceful day with wonderful food and good company.

We got addicted to Dark, the first German language series on Netflix.  It blew my mind – the level of detail, the intricacies of the many stories being told.  On several occasions, a reveal happened on screen but the implications of it wouldn’t hit me for a while.  This meant I frequently turned to Husband at random moments and screamed excitedly at him.  Cannot wait for series 2.

First trip to London
My Mum had my niece for a couple of days over the Christmas break, so we decided to take her on her first trip to London.  On the itinerary – Liberty, Carnaby Street, and of course Hamleys.  She was a little overwhelmed when we first stepped into the famous toy store, but as soon as she saw Peppa Pig cuddly toys, she figured out that this was her shop.  It was very adorable seeing her excitedly spotting different things, and I managed to convince her to get a Supergirl doll (they didn’t have Wonder Woman).  Walking round the busy streets with her yelling at people to get out of the way is a memory I’ll cherish!

I see a fever dream before me now

I have achieved nothing these past few weeks.  I haven’t felt 100% since my terrible cold a few weeks ago, and now I’m fairly certain I have bronchitis.  I’ve spent yet another day off work in my Wonder Woman PJs coughing so hard that I’ve thrown up on several occasions.  I’m not normally an ill person, so this is just irritating me beyond belief.

I had planned to blog all about the rest of our Dungeness trip, our new car, seeing Tom Allen, and my Liberty Beauty advent calendar but I just haven’t had any energy.

For now, I’m sticking to inhaling cough mixture (the hardcore stuff from behind the counter *wink wink*) and trying to stay asleep when it wears off after 4 hours.  I miss my old life!

November Things

Working in higher education, I don’t really get any time off from August to October (no, we don’t get the summer holidays off – I wish), so November saw the arrival of my much needed holiday.  Plus, a video game addiction from the past returned, and there was a bit of TV catch-up.

I think I pretty much covered our stay in Dungeness in my two posts about it – both the estate and the Fog Signal Building where we stayed.  It was exactly what I needed after a busy few months.

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
Many years ago, I remember husband coming home with a new Nintendo DS for the sole purpose of playing Animal Crossing: Wild World.  I demanded he go straight back out and buy me a DS because I wanted to play it too.  I very quickly became obsessed, and fell in love with a little blue squirrel called Filbert.

So of course I immediately downloaded Pocket Camp and have been playing it non-stop since then.  I appreciate that it’s got very bad reviews, but for a free-to-play mobile game, it’s pretty cute.  It’ll tide me over until something is released for the Nintendo Switch.

And I was over the moon to have Filbert move in to my camp.  He’s still just as adorable.

Tom Allen
I can’t remember how I found Tom Allen, but have been listening to his and Suzi Ruffell’s Like Minded Friends podcast for a while now.  We saw him at our friendly local arts venue and laughed so much that both Husband and I lost our voices the next day.  I adore him.

Audi Mania
November was the month of our new car arriving.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite ready on time so I’ve ended up driving three different Audis in November.  It’s been quite odd – I’ll be posting about my new baby soon.

Search Party
Continuing my theme of coming to TV shows late, we’ve just finished season 1 of Search Party.  We had every intention of watching it when it aired, but for whatever reason have only just started.  We binged watched the whole of season 1 in two sittings – what an ending.  Bring on season 2!

Let’s go to Dungeness

Editing these photos just now has filled me with such longing for this beautifully desolate area of the country.  I don’t think there’s really anything else I can say about Dungeness which has been said by a thousand other people – it’s stark, it’s barren, it feels like the end of the world.  I loved it.

There’s a smattering of houses, two pubs, two lighthouses, an odd little railway, even odder structures, and a power station.  Other than that, there’s silence except for the occasional siren from the lighthouse or alarm from the power station.  It really is a great place to get away from society (but not too far away).

OK, so I’ve romanticised our trip somewhat and I’m sure it’s a very different place in the summer but November definitely felt bleak.

We had a guess at what this structure was but didn’t come close to what the internet says it’s for.  As well as a wooden T, there’s also a wooden diamond further down the beach, and fisherman at sea could apparently line these two structures up to know where to navigate home.

I don’t know if we were just lucky, but as I mentioned in my post about the Fog Signal Building where we stayed, we had such beautiful light on our little walks around the estate.

There aren’t many photos of the residences here because I didn’t want to encroach on people’s privacy so we stuck to the beach.  Turn left out of our back garden – lots of abandoned boats.

And some creepy nuclear radiation detecting things (I think?)

Turn right and you come across the power station.  Somewhat unsettling for those with a propensity to overreact (such as myself).  In my defence, the warning signs around the place are terrifying, and the less said about the cloud in the sky one night, the better.

Everything was closed because it was November (of course) so we didn’t get to go on the mini-railway or go up the old lighthouse so we’ll definitely need to go back.  Hopefully there’ll be less fog next time, so the new lighthouse doesn’t keep us awake.

Fog Signal Building, Dungeness

We like staying in weird places.  In the past few years, we’ve stayed in a Pineapple, a 200 year old fort, and a 16th century Scottish tower house.  So when looking for somewhere to stay for our winter mini-break, I typed various synonyms for “quirky” into Google to see what I could find.

And I found the most perfect UK holiday rental that I have ever stayed in – the Fog Signal Building in Dungeness.

I knew a bit about Dungeness, but haven’t ever explored that area of the UK before so was really looking forward to days of peace and quiet, and that’s what we got.  More about Dungeness in another post (and also more about the random car we had for the drive as well) – but first, more on this amazing building.

The Fog Signal Building is on a plot of land which housed a number of old (and now some new) buildings that formed the Experimental Station – a former Trinity House research station.  It’s a bit hard to find historical details, but one book notes that it was built in the 1950s in order to test telemetry and fog detection.

The Fog Signal Building has been renovated to an extraordinarily high level by Johnson Naylor – beautiful limestone flooring, very cool furnishings, fancy kitchen appliances, and two (yes TWO) different types of teak baths.  There’s one main room for living, dining, and sleeping with separate kitchen and bathroom and it’s all stunning.  This is my dream home.

The light in Dungeness is incredible and almost other-worldly, so at numerous points during the day, we’d run outside to take photos of this iconic building. 

Almost every door and window has a different view – the two lighthouses, the Coastguard Lookout, the beach (and yes, the Nuclear Power Station which was only occasionally unnerving).  My favourite?  Sitting on the sofa looking out towards the new lighthouse, especially at night.

Although looking out over the shingle beach was pretty perfect too.

As our stay was in November, there weren’t many people about and we’d go hours without seeing another soul.  At times, we felt like we were the only ones left at the end of the world, which the Dungeness setting really helped with.

We had amazing sunsets every night.  I’m fairly certain we had amazing sunrises as well, but I was too lazy to get out of bed.  In fact, we slept really well the whole time except for one foggy night where the lighthouse fog siren blared for a while.  Oh the irony.  Of all the things to be kept awake by in the Fog Signal Building, I didn’t think it would be an actual fog signal.  Admittedly, I did convince myself it was a siren from some sort of nuclear disaster next door first but I soon figured it out.

At the end of our few days, I didn’t want to leave and I am already so desperate to go back.  We booked through Mulberry Cottages who have other amazing Dungeness properties as well (there are a few different websites where you can book this including Airbnb).

This is everything I want in a home, and if I won the lottery tonight, I’d drive down there to try to buy it from the current owners.  I’m sure they wouldn’t sell though – you’d be crazy to let this go.