Mood Music, Crafty Fox, and North Korean Art

Over the first May Bank Holiday, I managed to fit in a good amount of fun (I’ll be getting over jet lag for the second May Bank Holiday so I’m please I made the most of the first).

My weekend started on the Friday night with a classic date night – theatre followed by dinner.  Husband bought some last minute tickets to Mood Music at the Old Vic and he managed to get us pretty good seats.  All the better for me as the play featured one of my teenage crushes, Ben Chaplin.  I was obsessed with the sitcom Game On at the age of 15, and Ben was quite a large part of my obsession.  I lost track of him over the years, so was great to catch up with him in one of my favourite theatre venues.

The play itself was interesting, although it did leave me wanting more.  For a story about music, there was surprisingly minimal actual music.  It did feel very ‘placed’ and choreographed – everyone had to stick to set movements around the stage so at times, it came across as  a little forced.

Very much enjoyed it though, and it was nice to do something different on a Friday night.  We then had a late dinner and checked into a the Hilton Bankside so we didn’t have to rush for the last train home.  We’ll definitely be doing that again.

Saturday morning came – we checked out of the hotel, had a leisurely coffee, and I made my way over to the Mercato Metropolitano for my third Crafty Fox (Husband spent the day shopping for a new holiday outfit).  I love this venue and I wish I had more of a reason to visit!

I met up with a fellow Crafty Fox aficionado (my friend Alana) and we wandered the stalls whilst gossiping and analysing our shared love of Matthew Rhys.  I didn’t spend a great deal of money this time, but managed to get myself some more Rosa Pietsch necklaces, and a very cute glittery bow from Pup Tart.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I couldn’t leave it behind.

I then collected Husband from his shopping spree to meet up with Tim for some Saturday afternoon art appreciation.  We went to the House of Illustration in Kings Cross – a small but perfectly formed space which was showing three exhibitions.  We were there to see Made in North Korea which was fascinating (but we had a quick look at the other exhibitions too, including Quentin Blake).  We were there to see the North Korean ‘found objects’ though, and it’s honestly something I have never seen before.  I just don’t understand how he manages to have so much of this stuff!

A catch-up over Ruby Violet ice cream followed (although it was more me grilling Tim on the exact details of his recent trip to New York) and then dinner at Caravan.  Kings Cross has changed a lot since I was there last!

And we were home in time for an episode of Riverdale.  What a perfect start to my Bank Holiday.

April 2018 Things

It’s probably a terrible way of looking at things, but I just wanted April to be over and done with because May is MIAMI MONTH (!!!!), but there were a few notable points.

(More) Holiday Planning
I have been very forward thinking and have combated the post-holiday blues I know I’ll get when we’re back from Miami by booking another trip before we’ve even gone.  A few weeks ago, I was alerted to a great Virgin Atlantic/Delta deal to a variety of different places in America.  We spent too long thinking about it at the time and the deals vanished overnight, so I set up a Google Flights alert for the same locations, and what do you know – up popped the deals again.  This time, we didn’t mess about, and booked ourselves a week in… TEXAS!  I’m so excited – I haven’t been to Texas before, so I’ve spent the past few weeks bookmarking all the places I want to visit.  It’s not for few months yet, so I have plenty of time to prepare.  Woo!

John Robins
Since seeing John compere at the Greenwich Comedy Festival in 2015, I have become an obsessive fan of the Elis and John show on Radio X.  I call myself a PCD, a double retro-oner, and other things that only people who listen to their show will understand.  In that time, I have utterly fallen in love with John (and Elis of course).  I bought tickets for his show in Aldershot but the snow scuppered my chances of getting there so thank goodness for a second chance in Basingstoke.

The Darkness of Robins was spectacular, and the only reason I haven’t blogged about it is because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words.  The best I can say is that for a stand-up show, I did an awful lot of crying.  Team Robins all the way.

Brooklands Hotel
We had a random night away where I had a facial, we ate some lovely food, and we watched fast cars from our room.  Always fun.

Alone Time
Every so often, Husband goes away for work so I get a bit of alone time.  With him off in South Africa for a week, I managed to fit in some shopping (where I found my dream Lulu Guinness Vanity Case in TK Maxx), lots of Sex and the City watching, and a multitude of face masks.  I don’t like him to be away too often, but it’s good to have some time to myself once in a while.

Card fraud
It’s not great when you start the month with someone fraudulently taking money from your bank account.  It gets worse when the same thing happens to your credit card the following day.  I really don’t understand how this happened, and my bank was equally as baffled, but considering I don’t have any other cards, I was pretty stuck for money for the first week of April (except for a random £10 M&S gift voucher).  Thank goodness Google Pay still worked, albeit for payments under £30.  Stupid fraud!

Brooklands Hotel

 Onto my next hotel visit – the Christmas gift stay.

A couple of Christmases ago, my in-laws gifted us one of those hotel stay gift vouchers which was very generous of them.  I went on the website, validated the voucher code (or whatever it is you needed to do) and then didn’t do anything with it.  With Husband constantly on last-minute work trips, it was difficult to book in advance as we didn’t know if he’d actually be around.  In the end, the expiration date was fast approaching so we bit the bullet and booked.  As it turned out, he ended up going to South Africa the day after our stay so it was lucky we didn’t have to cancel!

There were a lot of hotels to choose from but a lot of them were quite far away and as it was only one night, we didn’t want an epically long drive.  We decided on the fairly local Brooklands Hotel which had great reviews on Trip Advisor, and a pretty interesting location opposite Mercedes Benz World.

We paid the extra £20 to upgrade to a track facing room which was well worth it – watching the cars speed around the track and skid around the skid pan was very entertaining.  Admittedly, we could have just walked across the road to go in MB World, or even over to the Brooklands Museum which also looked fun, but we decided to do neither of those things.  Husband instead spent the afternoon preparing for his work trip whilst I went to the spa.  I think I got a better deal than he did.

Check-in was very smooth and we soon had our noses pressed up against the huge window looking at all the pretty Mercedes.  The bathroom was smallish, but considering we were only there for one night, that didn’t bother me too much.  They’ve made some good decisions with the furniture – a Pedrali table is always a good sign and there was a very cool fresnel lens lampshade.  Everything was very stylish.

I managed to drag myself away from the action round the track and went up to the spa for my 50 minute Caudalie facial.  I love Caudalie products and the facial absolutely met my expectations – they have beautiful, serene treatment rooms and a good selection of techniques in the facial – I was left feeling incredibly relaxed and I’ll definitely keep my eye out for more spas that use Caudalie.  On the way out, I couldn’t resist a travel set of skincare which was only £12.50 and will come in handy for my next hotel stay.

Napping was necessary after all that relaxing, before we went down to dinner at 7 at the 1907 restaurant.  I was a bit concerned that it was quite a big open space and the noise levels were high, but we were lucky to get a table in a very quiet corner.  We also had breakfast there the next day – all in all, the food was delicious and we had such attentive service.

It was a shame we had to rush off in the morning to get Husband ready for his flight – they have a lovely late check-out time and I could easily have whiled away the hours in the room watching all that aggressive driving.

I have a little bit of a gap until my next hotel stay – I’ve got my trip to Miami in a couple of a weeks and I cannot wait!

Hilton London Bankside

My second hotel visit of the month – the non-refundable stay.

A few months ago, my Mum and I discovered the Hilton London Bankside – it was perfectly located for our impromptu shopping trip, exceptionally well appointed, and not stupidly expensive.  So when Husband and I decided to stay overnight after the Flight of the Conchords gig at the O2, I figured the Hilton would be perfect as it’s just a couple of stops down the Jubilee Line.  Sure, it was non-refundable but of course there wouldn’t be any problems

And then the Flight of the Conchords gig got cancelled.  Sigh.

Rather than waste the room, we went up to London anyway and had a touristy afternoon.  A grey, very rainy, touristy afternoon – classic London.

We managed to check in early which was a relief as we got soaked in the short 15 minute walk from Waterloo.  Once again, the service we received was fantastic – I’ve never come across anything like it in the UK before.  Hilton allows you to select a room online the day before, but I wasn’t quick enough to get a good one so we did end up with a view of a wall.  I still loved the room though – the decor is so minimalist and understated, the bathroom has beautiful tiles and concrete floor, and the Peter Thomas Roth toiletries are great.

Husband had never been to the Switch House at the Tate Modern (which is apparently now called the Blavatnik Building) so we spent most of the afternoon in there.  Although a tip for tourists – never visit on a bank holiday because it was hellish.  It was especially bad in the Turbine Hall with the Superflex exhibition which is basically just free childcare.  We did manage to get to the viewing platform without losing our minds, and because of the weather, it was very peaceful up there.  We also saw part of the Joan Jonas exhibition which was most enjoyable.

After the Tate Modern, we wandered down the South Bank, visited Mr Jones Watches (I suspect another watch post is needed), and a few more of the shops alongside the river.  It was still very wet, but this meant there were less people around.  After the scrum at the Tate, a bit of peace and quiet was needed.

After a quick drying-off back at the hotel, we went for a very sophisticated dinner at Sea Containers House in the Mondrian hotel.  We decided to go in through the hotel entrance rather than the entrance on the Thames – it is a very beautiful hotel and I have this noted for any future stays.  Dinner itself was really lovely, although we ate three courses so by the time I got to my caramelised banana dessert, I was so full.  We were lucky enough to sit by the window, so we people watched as we ate.  It was a great meal.

After a little bit of a restless night – the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable this time round – we met up with Tim for brunch at the Refinery where we all had excellent eggs, before we headed back home and Tim visited a significantly quieter Tate Modern.

As we fiddled about with our bags and coats after checking out, I took the opportunity to take in the Hilton’s lovely Easter display.  They really make such an effort here, and we’ll definitely be back.  It’s such a great hotel.

It was fun to be a London tourist for the day, and did mitigate somewhat against the disappointment of not seeing Flight of the Conchords.  Fingers crossed the re-scheduled gigs go ahead as planned.

March 2018 Things

My mind throughout this month was dominated by one thing:

Work
It has been one of those months.  You know the ones – you think you’ve planned for every eventuality but then something comes out of left field and completely derails you.  Always fun.  As well as doing my best impression of someone who is coping fine-thank-you-very-much, I visited Liverpool to catch up on new Government policy, and presented two (very dry) sessions at our staff conference.    This time last year, I wouldn’t have dreamt of presenting, so at least I’m developing professionally!

More snow!
This featured in my February Things post as well, but we had a couple more centimetres of snow in March.  I LOVE IT!

Bayside the Musical
Ridiculous, ridiculous fun.  I love this musical so much!

Touristy weekend in London
Over the bank holiday weekend, we found ourselves stuck with a London hotel after a cancellation, so decided to go all out tourist.  More about that soon.

Editors
I’ve been a huge fan of Editors since their first album The Back Room, which soundtracked my postgraduate degree, and have loved every album since then.  Their latest release Violence is so different to that first CD, but still as spectacular.  I can’t stop listening to it.

Pullman Liverpool Hotel

I’m in the middle of a quite hotel-heavy month – for one reason or another, I’ve spent more days away from home than normal, and whilst I don’t mind it, I’m very grateful that they’ve all been good hotels so far.

First up – the work stay.

I travelled to Liverpool for a conference a couple of weeks ago and stayed at the very lovely Pullman Liverpool.  It was perfectly placed for the Arena and Convention Centre next door, and only a 10/15 minute walk away from town so there was plenty of opportunity for me to visit Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar and the rest of the Liverpool One.

I loved this hotel – everyone was super friendly, the furnishings were beautiful, and most importantly, the toiletries were Co Bigelow.  My favourite brand ever (which I have talked about a lot).   I’d definitely stay here again.

Admittedly, it was very weird being in Liverpool.  About a lifetime ago, I spent a few years in the city but it has changed so radically since then.  I really struggled to find my way around, and I was so disorientated for most of my visit.  It was genuinely like I was visiting for the first time.  I popped in to town a couple of times for emergency coffee and an even more emergency manicure and I really enjoyed it (I don’t remember enjoying it that much a decade ago…).

The area around the Pullman was very quiet but I’m sure that was mostly because it was freezing down by the Mersey.  No one was riding the Liverpool Wheel and the Albert Dock was almost empty.  That suited me fine!

I was of course there to work so spent most of the time in the conference centre (to be fair, it was nice conference centre) so I couldn’t get away with sneaking off too often.  There’s always a new government regulation to grapple with, always colleagues to catch-up with.  We were lucky enough to be treated to an epic gala dinner at the phenomenal St George’s Hall – what an amazing venue.

All this followed by a painful train journey home, which made me remember all those times I hated travelling to and from the North West (although that did make me learn to drive so there’s a positive spin!).  I’m sure I’ll be back one day though.

Lets go to the Max – Part 2

Four years ago, I sat in an very Off-Broadway theatre, crying with laughter at the most ridiculous show I have ever seen – Bayside the Musical.  Whilst the play was extended on a number of occasions, I didn’t think I’d ever get to see it again but miracle of miracles – it came to London!  Specifically, at The Other Palace which is a lovely little theatre just behind Buckingham Palace.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged Tim to see it (I couldn’t persuade Husband to come with us – not being as familiar with Saved by the Bell as I am, he got totally confused the first time we saw it).  I spent the morning shopping with my Mum over on Regent Street and walked from there to the theatre through freezing snow – good lord, it was cold and I was relieved to get comfy down in their Studio theatre.

It was a slightly smaller theatre than the New York production, and I was a little worried when the actors first came on stage as the audience wasn’t quite warmed up – there wasn’t the levels of hysteria that the Americans had.  But the cast soon had everyone in the palm of their hands (and despite being a matinee, there were still catcalls from the Prosecco-drinking audience as the play went on).

It was difficult not to compare the Brits to the original cast but they definitely held their own and there was one thing that they did so well – a brilliantly sarcastic breaking of the fourth wall.  The first time it happened – which I think was during the song “Let’s go to the Max” – made me laugh so much.  They entirely came out of their cheesy American characters, spoke in their regular British voices and added a genius extra level to this absurd story.

The second act started in the same way as the American with a quick trip to Malibu Sands, but deviated sharply into a self-deprecating scene between The Extras played by William Hazell and Roann McCloskey.  They just ripped into the staging, the direction, the token American in the cast (Ben Campbell as Zack) – no one can put the Brits down better than ourselves.

It was stupid, stupid fun, and I absolutely loved it again.  Here’s hoping for another reprisal so I can see it a third time.

“We can’t wrap this up in just one show,
We need another episode,
Got to work things out, and resolve the plot, 

To be continued, dot, dot, dot”

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…)

Nostalgia
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!

Snow
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.