Two bank holidays – always a pleasure. May was actually quite busy after a couple of quiet(er) months. I just need to get around updating this blog!
Celtic Manor – again! Bank Holiday one was spent at the Celtic Manor yet again, with afternoon tea and a couple of spa treatments. We did consider booking the same for Bank Holiday two, but it was more expensive and we were feeling lazier!
Mermaid Hair Over the past few months, I’ve been steadily getting rid of the orangey undertones in my hair. We finally managed to crack it, so the wonderful Jo at Gilded Hair gave me mermaid hair. Everyone at work was incredibly shocked, I can assure you of that.
Comedians Giving Lectures A couple of weeks ago, Sara Pascoe tweeted that there was tickets available for the taping of her new show, Comedians Giving Lectures. It combined two of my favourite things – funny, funny people, and Powerpoint presentations – and I managed to get tickets for the penultimate episode featuring Tom Allen (who I ADORE), Nish Kumar, and Natasia Demetriou. All three comedians were as brilliant as expected, and it was fun to see the taping, particularly after seeing how the Americans do it on a couple of occasions. Hopefully I won’t see myself in the audience when it airs in a couple of months.
Robot Cocktails More on this in a future posts, but we visited the Barbican for an exhibition on AI, and decided to partake in some robot-made cocktails. It was very unnecessary, but super fun.
There are three types of people who go to the annual Tatty Devine sample sale in East London:
The early-starters – the ones who get there at goodness knows what time in the morning (or even the night before) and seemingly never leave the hall…
The late-morning queuers – the ones who get there just before the doors open and lose all feeling in their legs as the morning goes on
The afternoon browsers – the (sane) ones who don’t want to spend the whole morning in a queue so get there in the afternoon when everyone else has collapsed, and somehow manage to pick up dream pieces regardless
If you’re in the top two groups of people, you need to show serious commitment. This not for the faint-hearted – there’s rain, sun, and everything in between. If you want the good stuff, you need to get there early and be prepared to queue.
I’m firmly in the second group. Whilst I admire those who get there before the sun rises, I could never spend hours camped out on the floor outside St Hilda’s East Community Centre – I love Tatty Devine, but just not enough for sleeping bags and camping chairs.
I got to St Hilda’s East at about 9.15am and there was already a healthy number of people in the queue. I put my headphones in (Editors – The Blanck Mass Sessions) and prepared myself for a long wait. Over the course of the three hour queue (yes, three hours), we shuffled and shivered along slowly. I survived the freezing cold wait by thinking about the Dum Dum doughnuts I’d reward myself with when I was done, and also by wondering if my knees would ever allow me to sit down again.
At 12.30, I was inside the hall and greeted with half a dozen tables stacked full of acrylic jewellery goodness. We’d heard that there had been bags for sale as well, but they had long gone. I then don’t know what happened to me – I think I must have fallen into some kind of fugue state as I didn’t emerge from the hall until 2pm.
I do remember saying to myself on a number of occasions that I had finished my selections, only to go around the room for one last lap and find more stuff. Both a curse and a blessing – there are frequent drops of new stuff from staff and customers who are putting back unwanted items. At one stage, I was literally in the queue to pay when I saw someone put a pink lobster down, so I went around the room again to see what else had been given up. You can understand why people don’t want to leave – there is a huge element of fomo and thinking that your dream piece might be just about to arrive in the room.
But when I did eventually leave/escape/come to my senses, I was very happy with my purchases – I spent way more than I had planned to, but I really couldn’t bring myself to put anything back. Really looking forward to my June payslip though.
London Marathon 2019 I am phenomenally proud of my little brother – he ran the freaking London Marathon! We made our way up to London a couple of Sundays ago to see if we could see him – I’d read a lot about the best places to spectate so we weighed up all the options and decided on the halfway point in Wapping just by Shadwell DLR station. It was very busy as soon as we got off the train, but we walked a little further up The Highway and managed to get a good spot on the barrier. And then we saw my brother! He looked fairly cheery, although I think he was in significant pain at that point but we sent him on his way again.
We had planned to get down to Canary Wharf to see him again, but we couldn’t get back on the DLR as it was rammed full of people, so instead we took my Mum for some coffee to warm her up, and then put her on the tube to see him at the end of the race.
I’m not a bit fan of crowds so I was a little nervous about going up there, but I highly recommend it. The atmosphere is great which the runners really appreciate, and there are plenty of places to get to the barrier if you pick the right area. We even got to see some celebrities.
Easter Vacation For some inexplicable reason, my University closes for a week over Easter. I took the opportunity to do very little – brunch with Mum, a bit of shopping, a few beauty treatments, and discount Easter eggs. It was definitely needed.
Shopping at Gunwharf Quays I have been on the search for a new bag, and had heard that a new Kate Spade outlet had opened at Gunwharf Quays so took myself down to Portsmouth to check it out. I was sadly disappointed – there were a lot of great bags in the store, but not what I was looking for. I tried the Lulu Guinness outlet as well but left empty handed. It was a remarkably quick visit
Fleabag I didn’t really get into Fleabag season 1 – I’m pretty sure I watched it all, but it didn’t draw me in. However, season 2 grabbed me and we watched it all in one night. Such incredibly unbelievable writing and it left me heartbroken!
New Phone Husband has been driven mad by the appalling performance of my 2 year old Nexus 5X (which is actually my third one – they keep breaking and Google keeps sending me a new one). The battery was awful, apps kept crashing, everything took 30 seconds to load, but I stayed with it because the alternatives were stupidly expensive. And then, out of nowhere, John Lewis dropped the price of the Pixel 3 and I snapped it up. The difference has been incredible, and I can’t wait to play with the camera properly.
I’ve only been a Mr Jones Watches collector since 2014, so I have missed out on a lot of their history. The release of The 100th has given me some indication on what I’ve missed out on, and it confirms that I have approximately 16% of their releases in my collection. Always good to have some solid data.
My sixteenth watch was the 100th – it was released on a Thursday which is fortunately the day I work from home and I was able to buy as soon as it went on sale. I pretty much had the pick of any number, and I chose my lucky number 4.
The 100th is composed of elements from some of their iconic pieces including The Accurate, Sun and Moon, The Last Laugh, the Decider, and King. I love the blues in watch, and the eyes are a beautifully reflective silver.
I’ve worn it pretty much every day since it arrived.
The watch also came with a two-sided poster listing all of their releases, which honestly feels a bit like they’re challenging me.
New Forest Trip Amidst the chaos, we managed a couple of days away in the wild New Forest. I very much needed it.
Brunch at the Oxo Tower I’ve been to the Oxo Tower for Afternoon Tea and lunch on a few occasions, but never brunch so we gave it a go in March. I was a little disappointed as I had picked out the Hong Kong toast from the menu only for it to not appear, but I instead choice a very delicious sweet potato and corn fritter. The brunch is in the bar, but is very relaxed and it reminded me how much I enjoy the meals there. Must book Not Afternoon Tea again soon.
Elisa Lodato I read both of Lodato’s books in March – she’s a phenomenally beautiful author and as soon as I put down The Necessary Marriage, I had to pick up An Unremarkable Body straight away. Her writing is very hypnotic but quite unassuming so when the big reveals were made in both books, I was almost winded! Really quite delicate – I can’t wait for her next offering.
BFF-led therapy After a very stressful couple of weeks, I met up with Tim to wander the South Bank and have a cathartic chat about the madness at work. We stopped by the new BFI restaurant, where we seemed to annoy the waiter by asking for a starter and desert, before delighting a pair of fellow diners for reasons unknown.
Miscellaneous I wasn’t sure how to categorise this last one, but whilst March started with me both European and employed, I wasn’t sure that I would be able say the same at the end of the month.
Fortunately (on both counts), I am still European and still employed. Let’s see how we fare at the end of April.
When we visited our Texan friends back in November 2018, we knew that the next time they visited the UK, we wanted to return the warm hospitality they extended to us. We got the opportunity to do so a lot quicker than expected, as they would be in London in the middle of March. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet bought our luxurious mansion (you know, the one with multiple guest rooms that’s waiting to be bought when we win the lottery) so instead, we whisked them away towards the south coast, to a Airbnb more suited to hosting friends.
We chose the quaint and cosy 18th century Little Exbury on the outskirts of the tiny Exbury village and very close to Beaulieu. It was the perfect base for exploring the wild New Forest with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and remote location suitable for long conversations around the fireplace as the wind whipped around outside. I didn’t want to leave.
The weather was… typically English so we weren’t really able to show off our beautiful countryside. Instead, we wandered from windy village to windy village, feeling a bit sorry for the wild roaming ponies and donkeys as they huddled together for warmth under the trees.
We visited Beaulieu of course – somewhere I visited once when I was small, and a lot of memories were unlocked as we wandered around the estate. I found the 800 year old abbey and the palace house most interesting; the motor museum less so (although I was less grumpy when I found somewhere to sit), and it was nice to see a little reference to the career my Dad found himself in. We also experienced a remarkable coincidence when we found out that the American side of the Montagu family (who own Beaulieu) were visiting from – of course – Texas!
We spent far more time in Beaulieu than expected, and after a quick freshening up back at the cottage, we went back to Beaulieu village for some fish and chips at Monty’s Inn.
The following day, we spent the morning at Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum which was surprisingly picturesque – part of this cute hamlet has been converted into a living museum, with a pub and tiny church. If it wasn’t so wickedly blustery, we could have gone for a nice boat ride but the weather got to us so we took ourselves up to the cafe for a warm drink.I couldn’t let our American friends leave the UK without experiencing my favourite meal of the day – Afternoon Tea. You really are spoiled for choice as there are so many places in the New Forest that offer Afternoon Tea but I decided on Burley Manor, an old manor house in the village of Burley (which I am truly sad to just driven through without stopping – it had two witchcraft shops! I must go back!). I mostly picked this hotel for the deer that graze outside, but it had some pretty good reviews as well which proved themselves to be true. We happily stuffed ourselves full of delicious cake and scones.It was a pretty quick whistle-stop tour of the New Forest, and I hope our friends enjoyed the dramatic landscape, even if it was all a little grey most of the time.
Despite things lurching from bad to worse at work (we’re talking BBC News reports levels of worse), there were some bright spots in February.
Snow My last Monthly post ended with no snow – February started with snow! Admittedly, I had a bit of a terrifying journey home from the airport where we almost skidded into a variety obstacles, but it was pretty whilst it lasted.
Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist Tim and I ventured under Waterloo station for the Vault Festival to see Tilda which is an absolute riot of a show. Byron Lane writes and stars in a show about an ordinary guy going through a hard time – his boyfriend has left him, his parents are a nightmare. Out of nowhere, Tilda Swinton (played by Tom Lenk) swoops into his life to study him for her latest role. It is so stupidly funny – you pretty much don’t stop giggling for 80 minutes at all the niche film and theatre jokes. At the end, the wonderful Byron was in the bar taking photos of people with Tom. It was such a fantastic experience, and I’d love to see it again.
Educated by Tara Westover Wow, what a book. Educated is a phenomenal memoir from a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist family, her father obsessed with the end of days. It’s not spoiling the ending by saying that she managed to work her way out of Idaho, and I am currently urging everyone to read it. Her family do dispute her version of events, but I believe it’s possible for her truth to be valid as well as theirs. I was blown away by her writing and was so emotionally drained when I turned the last page.
The Midlands I had two work trips booked in back-to-back – one in a generic hotel conference room in Birmingham, one at the University of Leicester – so rather than come home, I decided to stay the night in B’ham. I was able to fit in a facial (classic work trip activity), a bit of shopping, and a lovely catch-up over pizza with my favourite married couple. I’ll be honest – the area of the city I stayed in wasn’t particularly pleasant and the rest of the trip was a bit of a struggle, but at least I got to see some beautiful Tracey Emin neon at St Pancras Station on the way home.
Russian Doll Like everyone else in the western hemisphere, we binge-watched Netflix’s Russian Doll in one evening. Honestly, I couldn’t decide what I thought about it – clearly there was something in the show that kept me watching, but I wasn’t sure if I like it. I think after (over)analysing my feelings about it, I decided that it ultimately left me a little unfulfilled because there seemed to be a number of threads that weren’t fully explored. That said, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be more seasons, so maybe that will satiate my curiosity on this quirky little show.
Having been to New York on a few occasions now, we have a pretty solid routine, but we do enjoy adding one or two new experiences on each trip.
We were up early enough on the Saturday to get to the Westfield World Trade Center as it opened – mostly because we wanted to get the classic shot at the entrance that everyone gets for Instagram before it got crowded. This was our first visit – the architecture is incredibly impressive but I think I enjoyed the walk through Tribeca more than the mall. We spent very little time here once we’d got our shots, and quickly scuttled up to SoHo for some shoe shopping.
Of course we took a trip up the High Line – we could see parts of it from our hotel room and it frequently looked packed full of people, so we again took advantage of our jet lag to get there early for a gloriously peaceful walk. We saw some beautiful art on this visit – “Agora is a group exhibition that looks at the role of art in defining, creating, and using public space” – and I particularly loved the light installations like Somos 11 Millones by Andrea Bowers (above) and Marinella Senatore’s Give Your Daughter’s Difficult Names (below). It would have been amazing to see them at night.
We had a quick wander around Central Park, but this was peak Christmas Vacation and the crowds were insane. The relative calm of Greenwich Village and SoHo had lulled us into a false sense of security and we completely underestimated how busy the whole of Midtown would be. After battling through the hoards in Central Park, I had the brilliant idea of going down 5th Ave to see the Saks window display – no chance. It was a scrum.
The crowd briefly parted for me to see a bit of the store front, and that was enough for me so we ducked down towards Rockefeller Center. Even crazier idea, as seemingly everyone in New York was also headed this way to see the tree. The last time we saw the tree, it was deserted so to see it so crowded was a little stressful.
We retreated south and spent the rest of our trip in Chelsea and Greenwich, which included stumbling across an insane Christmas tree display, which I think was something to do with The Standard…
… and saw some slightly more upscale Christmas decorations on Bleecker Street.
I also found my new favourite store on Bleecker – The Mask Bar, which stocks dozens of Korean sheet masks. It was heavenly and the perfect end to our trip.
January 2019 was an entire waste of a month. I don’t think I did one thing of note, which admittedly doesn’t bode well for this blog post…
New job Not me, Husband. His new office is based in Portugal (sort of) so there’s been a lot of video chatting over the past month. There’s also been a lot of driving to Heathrow airport early in the morning like I’m an Uber driver. I don’t get tipped.
Macro Lens For Christmas, I treated myself to an Olympus Pen PL9 camera. I’ll be honest, I mostly bought it for the retro styling, but it helped that John Lewis had an offer for a free macro 30mm lens. I’m addicted to taking close up photos of random things, including the Rhea Kulcsar ring I bought myself in Chelsea Market.
CD clear out I have quite the collection of CDs. Correction – had. They were sitting in boxes taking up space in the spare room; space that we just can’t afford to waste in our tiny house. Over the past few months, we’ve tried selling them on those apps where you can scan the barcode and get them sent off, but we just weren’t making a dent in the collection.
So we bagged them up and took them to the recycling plant. It was traumatising.
Greatest Dancer As huge Strictly fans, Husband and I were looking forward to the new BBC show, The Greatest Dancer. It started very shakily and we did not enjoy the audition rounds which were far too stylised. The live shows have been amazing however – the quality of dancing has been spectacular, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the acts. I hope it gets a second series.
No snow As we got to the end of January, I was really looking forward to a snow day or two, but it was not to be. Not until February…
Staying in Chelsea meant we had some of the best eateries on our doorstop, and on at least one of the nights, we spent a good half an hour weighing up options.
For our first night, we walked over to the next block to the Meatpacking District location of Dos Caminos for some amazing Mexican food. The small guac and chips was huge, which made me glad that I only ordered a small plate (chicken taquitos which were amazing). I hit a wall pretty early that evening after our long flight, so couldn’t manage dessert which I’m very sad about as the Mexican hot fudge sundae looks incredible. We really liked the atmosphere in the restaurant and we were really tempted to visit again on this trip.
Our first full day featured a crazy amount of walking (10 miles) and I can’t remember stopping to eat lunch. I do remember wanting to have some kakigōri (Japanese shaved ice) from Bonsai Kakigori in Canal Street Market. I wanted this so much that I made us do something we would never normally do – wait for the place to open. And how were we rewarded? The freaking store didn’t have any ice. WHY!? I’m still angry about it.
After wandering all over SoHo and Greenwich Village, we popped back to the hotel to drop off our shopping, and for Husband to research some shoes he wanted to buy. After buying said shoes, we stopped by Dough Doughnuts on W 19th Street to pick up a snack for later. Although they were very good doughnuts, they weren’t the best doughnuts of the trip…
Dinner that night was just around the corner from our hotel at Bare Burger 8th Ave. Aside from the fact we were sat at high stools (I hate high stools!), this was a great meal, although we ordered way too much and had to waddle back to our room. So good.
Day two featured even more walking (16 miles!!) and again, we didn’t stop for a ‘proper’ lunch, but we did stop for my favourite doughnuts in New York – Underwest Donuts. We found this tiny little store on our last trip and I was overjoyed to eat the most delicious doughnut in such an un-expected location – a car wash!
This was the day we struggled to make a decision for dinner as is so much choice, but I lobbied hard for the Meatball Shop which turned out to be one of the best restaurant decisions we’ve ever made. These guys do meatballs, and they do them well – different types of ball (even meat-free!) matched with different sauces, supplemented by a great selection of sides. I could eat here every day for the rest of my life and not get bored. The staff were wonderful, and helped out with menu recommendations which was definitely needed as it’s surprisingly hard to decide on a meatball combination!
We decided to skip dessert here again – although their ice cream sandwiches were tempting – because I had my eye on a different prize. Chip NYC were in the Gansevoort market when we visited although I think they’ve now closed that branch to move to a bigger location in the West Village. I have never had a cookie like it, and I doubt I’ll have anything like it again. Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside and just absolute perfection. We visited just before they closed so they only had a couple left – I had Funfetti and Husband had White Chocolate Macadamia but they bake different cookies on different days.
So of course, we had to go back the following afternoon to try more of their menu. I mentioned earlier that I don’t wait for things to open; well, neither do I queue for food. But for Chip cookies, I would queue for an hour. We actually only queued for 15 minutes and were rewarded with warm, doughy goodness (a hot fudge sundae, and a strawberry cheesecake). We found a ledge at the back of Gansevoort Market to perch and try not to make a terrible mess of ourselves with the gooeyness (we failed).
The cookies were a pre-trip home treat, but we had also treated ourselves to a proper breakfast on our final morning – something that has become a bit of a tradition for our final mornings. We had intended to visit Chelsea Market more over the course of our three day trip, but the whole place was constantly over-crowded. Sunday morning was gloriously quiet however, so we stopped by our favourite brunch location – Friedmans. We were a little too far away from our usual location in Hell’s Kitchen, but fortunately they have a small store in Chelsea Market so I was able to order my favourite – eggs with style.
Now, how can I get Deliveroo or Uber Eats to fly over some of those meatballs?