Sunday, November 22, 2009
Then we headed back to St Christopher's Place on James Street for H's birthday tea. We went to the Seabass restaurant. His coconut prawns were delicious, I enjoyed my hummus and pitta bread. Then his lamb shish kebab was very tasty, my seabass on roast vegetables was succulent, but the chips were a bit oily and overdone - not as good as mine, so mostly left. Overall, very nice, we enjoyed ourselves.
And now I'm off to bed!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
To service was very good. The young waitress was new and, I think, still learning English; she brought us the wrong starter. However, H did not realise until half way through, and when we pointed it out, the manageress brought us the right dish; this meant we got to try three of the starters for the price of two!
I had hummus and fried livers. Delicious, and spot on starter size. The small mound of livers were succulent and just a little pink, resting on a coral reef of hummus. I had watched the waitress carefully brown the pitta bread on a big metal dome on top of the smoky, firey grill earlier - it was crispy, not too much, just right.
H's first starter turned out to be a spinach and soft cheese filo pastry with salad. The pastry was very slightly too oily for my taste, but the spinach and cheese was just right. The salad - which also came later with the main course - was the only time that I thought H might have a point about food coming from a plastic bag in Tesco! Red and green cabbage with carrot and a spot of mustard dressing. Anyway, the filo parcels were not the calamari rings expected, but when they came, they still had the slightly too greasy batter but with tasty squid that was not too chewy or rubbery, the main reasons why I don't really like squid.
We were probably getting full on bread and extra starters before the main course arrived. I had a very tasty vegetable moussaka with more of the salad and some mint yoghurt raita sauce. Lots of tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and bechamel sauce! Very tasty and, once again, a good size for lunch. H had lamb sheesh kebab and rice; it's always a good sign when he finishes something quickly!
We finished by ordering "a cup of tea" which, in translation, became "a coffee", but, once again this mistake was quickly rectified. I had earlier had a delicious, and thick, strawberry milkshake.
I would definitely take any friends or family here for lunch if we are ever in the Bond Street area ... although we passed many other good looking cafes, creperies and trattoria in that same area that we'll need to try some time!
I should point out that we ate out having spent a very interesting and enjoyable hour and a half or so at the nearby Wallace Collection. Hope to go back at some point in the future to peruse further the collection. Not too impressed by the Damien Hirst's this time; well, H wasn't anyway, I didn't really have much time to have an opinion before I heard his!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It's been a really hot day, and I've continued sweating back at the flat despite the fan being on. I've managed to sort out some of my shoe collection a bit, have finished dusting in the bedroom, and have put all the clothes away.
Breakfast - banana and blackberry smoothie.
Lunch - spaghetti bolognese followed by fruit salad and ice cream.
Afternoon snack - a Feast ice cream!
Dinner - Omelette with cucumber and cherry tomato salad followed by a slice of toast and some homemade gooseberry jam.
(I also had 2 plums and a bagel with honey for supper last night.)
As of this morning, the scales were back at the 11 stone point, which was a bit disheartening but not too much - after all, it's not been a week yet, and I know my weight can fluctuate at different times. I definitely have lived a healthier life this week, doing lots more active work in and around the house, walking much more than normal, and eating lots of fruit and vegetables. I have not had any chocolate or biscuits, have felt healthy, and think I look healthy. Perhaps my fat is turning into muscle!!
However, tomorrow I shall visit my Auntie ... and who knows what we'll eat when I am there?! I'll try to stick to the healthy options, but I'll not have as much control over my choices, and I am sure there will be many more temptations!
H may come home a bit earlier, which will be lovely. I think he's really enjoyed his Grand Tour, and I'm looking forward to seeing his photographs and hearing his tales!
Right. It's after midnight now (I had to finish tidying up before I leave because I didn't want H coming back to a messy house!) so I think I better get to bed so I can make the most of tomorrow! (I slept in this morning!)
Monday, August 10, 2009
I was woken up this morning with the plumber knocking on the door. Hadn't really expected him before 9am ... It also messed up my waking up routine a bit as well, and I didn't have breakfast until about 10am. In the meantime I switched on the computer, always a bad idea when there are things to be done.
Breakfast - banana, pear, blackberry, yoghurt, honey and cinnamon fruit smoothie with a toasted bagel and Mum's homemade strawberry jam.
Lunch - brown rice risotto, made with spring onions, cauliflower, aubergine and courgette, served with tomato and salad.
Afternoon snack - WeightWatcher's toffee yoghurt
Dinner - the rest of the risotto (didn't think I could freeze it, and I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow yet), along with some cucumber, mackerel and a couple of slices of houlloumi cheese.
I've also laid out all my shoes on the floor, swept under the clothes rail, and have done the laundry. I just need to get round to hoovering the bedroom and I'm almost there. I've also been for a walk to the library and back. While there I bought a bottle of water and a set of four WW yoghurts (about 84p for 4). I've also finished another book, The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
I left the house at 9am or so, after having a delicious banana, blackberry, natural yoghurt and lychee juice smoothie and a toasted bagel with honey, and walked to church.
After a nice service, I left church and started walking towards the Tower of London. I popped into the Whitechapel Art Gallery for a bit, to rest my weary feet, then continued onwards and arrived at the Tower about 12:30pm or so.
I then spent the day exploring. There is so much to see and do there! First of all, I arrived just as the free Yeoman-Warden guided tour was starting, so I joined the huge group to begin exploring. The former sergeant major (I think he said all Beefeaters have to have reached that rank and been in the army for 22 years - he certainly had a Major's voice!) was very funny, if quite cynical about a few things, and was very dramatic. He enjoyed frightening the little children by lowering his voice then suddenly SHOUTING something, normally about EXECUTIONS and people losing their heads.
We finished in the Chapel of St Peter Vincula (in chains) (we weren't in chains, apparently it means St Peter in chains. Just thought I should clarify.) and I left to begin to wander round by myself. I can't quite remember the order in which I wandered, but I think I first of all went to the cafe to have some lunch. Had already decided that I would probably have soup, but the cream teas looked exceedingly good! As did the Tudor beef pies ... However, I stuck to the thick tomato soup with giant croutons and a slice of bread, with pink lemonade on the side. £6.15 altogether (I have since discovered that there's another cafe outside which does the soup for £1 cheaper, but I think next time I would just take my own packed lunch). A short break, then I thought I'd go and see the crown jewels.
As I approached the Jewel House, there was a fairly long queue that went along one wall. I decided to go to the toilet first, and a few short minutes later I was back in the courtyard - but the queue now would all the way around the square! Fortunately it moved quickly. I liked the first room which had a chair for each of the English / British monarchs from William the Conqueror on. There was a gold line along the top that stated the name of the Royal House (eg Norman, Tudor, Windsor), and the name of each monarch above their chair. Interesting that after Elizabeth II there were only two empty chairs, then the room ran out of space ... ??!?
Obviously the highlight of the Jewel House was seeing the Crown Jewels. There is a moving walk way that you stand on that takes you passed the main crowns, sceptres and orbs. You stand and watch them go by, so no one can hog one crown or the Koh-i-Noor too long. The jewels, the diamonds in particular, sparkle like little rainbows, and are simply amazing. Towards the end of the tour is the gown worn by the Queen at her coronation. Or rather two pieces of clothing, both of which were golden, embroidered, and heavy.
Back outside again, I decided I ought to visit the White Tower. But on my way I was stopped by the re-enactment that was going on - two knights were about to fight for the honour of representing Elizabeth, the Queen Consort of some king or other. I happened to be nearest Sir, or Lord, someone Neville. He was very funny, and engaged our half of the audience, while the other, younger, man, the brother of the Queen, was talking to those further down. This meant that when they started fighting, we were cheering on Neville and booing Woodville - and we were definitely louder! It was great fun, but as the time was going on, I decided to leave and explore the White Tower, so I don't know who won in the end - I fear it may have been the younger man.
The White Tower is the place where all the armour that still exists that belonged to Henry VIII is gathered. What was special was that, as so much of the armour fits fairly snug to the body, you could really see how Henry changed in shape and size over the year. The suit of armour that may have been the last suit made for him is quite huge, just like those big portraits of the overweight man that we are so used to. Another particularly strange piece of armour was a horned helmet, which had a bizarre looking face with buck teeth and spectacles on it.
Exiting, I thought I might go and see the torture instruments next, but then changed my mind when I saw the queue and went in to St Thomas' Tower instead. There began a long walk along the walls, passing through Medieval bedchambers, the ghostly Salt Tower where condemned prisoners were kept, along the ballistrades where we learnt how to handle weaponry, and finally into the Diamond room. One of the funny facts about the Culliane diamond was that a heavily-guarded decoy was sent back to the UK, while the real thing was sent by ordinary post! Very interesting display.
And then it was time to close the Tower, so I slowly made my way to the exit, and headed towards Tower Bridge. I paused, and bought an ice cream (£1.90) and looked forward to reaching Tower Hill and settling down for a tube ride home. Alas, this was not to be - Tower Hill station was closed, so I then had to walk all the way back to Whitechapel, where I caught a bus which dropped me ... about another 20 mins from home! Still, I made it eventually - but I am not sure if I will be able to move my legs tomorrow!
Since arriving home I have cleaned the bathroom, been on the internet and cooked and eaten - mackerel with boiled potatoes, leeks and sweetcorn. I am now exhausted - this has taken me ages to write, in between doing other things, like cleaning silver with toothpaste - so I am off to bed, for some much needed sleep!
Saturday, August 08, 2009
After C left, I spoke to my Gran, then slept for a bit - longer than expected, I think! - and had mackerel and salad with a beef tomato for dinner. Still thinking about the possibility of a sweet, or supper. Have just worked out that dinner probably cost about £2. Could probably have done with a couple of potatoes to finish it off, but I'm quite enjoying this slightly rumbley tummy feeling! Eating just not enough to feel full. Might have a bagel and honey later on.
Otherwise, heard from H (yeah!), spoke to Dad, watched some of the Proms on TV while eating dinner, and have been on the internet for a bit. Not too long! Think I might have that bagel then go to bed earlyish with a good book (The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde) and read for a bit. Early start tomorrow for church, then I think I'll walk to the Tower of London. Maybe. You'll find out tomorrow!
Lunch - I made a lentil curry, featuring onions, plantain, courgette, cauliflower, broccoli, aubergine and lentils, with a veg oxo cube and some curry powder. I added a spoonful of natural yoghurt to mine after I dished it. We had it with brown rice. A very filling and tasty dish - as C said, it tasted healthy! For pudding we had mango and blueberries - again, I added a spoonful of natural yoghurt. We each had a glass of white grape, pear and apple juice. The whole meal probably cost about £1.20 a portion. Makes you think ...
It's now 3pm, and I need to decide what to do next ... I must have lots of energy after that meal! Perhaps I should go out ... but it would also be nice to relax in my nice clean room, with my feet up and a good book ... !!
For breakfast this morning I had a fruit smoothie. One banana, one mango, a handful of blueberries, a couple of spoons of low fat natural yoghurt and a splash of white grape, pear and apple juice. Delicious! And quite filling too.
I have managed to throw away another couple of black bin bags this morning, finished sweeping and hoovering the floor, cleaned (most of) the bathroom, the kitchen floor, dusted a bit, and have put on some atmospheric easy listening music. It's now 10.45am and I am awaiting my cousin, who is visiting this morning after her morning jog. I plan a lentil curry for lunch. Will tell you how it goes later ... !!
It's a beautiful day - might go for a walk later.
Friday, August 07, 2009
I woke up around 9am this morning, with my alarm - no bright sun to open my eyes today! No, it was bleak, overcast, damp and cool, and remained so for most of the day (until I left around 7pm to go shopping, when, very kindly, it cheered up a lot and was a pleasant summer's evening!)
I have swept and hoovered about half of the room, and cleared most of both desks. I have just now been to the shops and stocked up on vegetables.
Breakfast - poached egg on toast
Lunch - carrot and coriander "healthy eating" soup with toast
Snack - banana
Dinner - small slice of cheese and onion quiche and some boiled veg. Cabbage, courgettes, carrots and cauliflower in a veg stock cube. I should have added some celery, as I bought some of that as well! Hadn't realised until now that they all began with C!
Drinks - lots of water and a cup of lemon and ginger tea
Exercise - sweeping and hoovering, and walking to the shops (I took the bus back, because the three bags were so heavy!)
I spent just under £30 at the supermarket, which may have been a bit more than I had hoped, but I hope to use all the veg and fruit wisely so it should do me for some time. Hopefully. Wondering just now whether to make C Soup from the leftovers, or if I should just eat the rest of the veg as they are ... ???
My cousin is coming round tomorrow, so I have decided to make lentil curry. As I have never made this before, it could be interesting!
I have just paused for a short while to turn the leftover vegetables into soup - very nice and thick it is too!
I wanted to keep a record of my shopping to see how much I spend on each meal.
- Still water - £0.93
- Fresh milk - £0.45
- Lentils (tin) - £0.40
- White vinegar - £0.45 (I have been using vinegar lots recently as a cleaning product!)
- Bean salad - £0.46 (thought this would go nice with veg in a curry or stew)
- Potatoes - £1.98 (very versatile! And these should last for a while)
- Lychee juice £0.79 (I bought a different brand from my favourite Rubicon. Hope it's okay!)
- Brown rice £1.23 (thought I'd try some while H is away!)
- Plain bagels £1.15 (the last time I was on a diet the magazine recommended these a lot, so I ate them a lot!)
- Blueberries £1.00 (want to have them in smoothies)
- Blackberries £1.99 (ditto)
- 3 beef tomatoes £1.74 (3 for the price of 2, so actually £1.16)
- White cabbage £0.68
- Spring onions £0.59
- Leeks £0.57
- Broccoli £0.76
- Cauliflower £0.78
- Courgettes £0.50
- Twin Sweetcorn £0.66 (reduced)
- Plantain £0.31 (reduced)
- Ground cinnamon £1.40 (hmmm. Sure it said £1.23 on the aisle ... only just noticed ...) (Bought it to put in smoothies)
- Prepared salad £2.00 (rocket, watercress and spinach, my favourite)
- Smoked mackerel £1.68 (thought I should have some oily fish!)
- Celery £0.50
- Cucumber portion £0.33
- Mushrooms £1.08 (3 large flat ones)
- Bananas (5) £0.60
- Plums (punnet) £1.00
- Natural yoghurt £0.68 (for smoothies in the morning!)
- Carrots £0.42
- Aubergine £0.84
- Onions (3) £0.51
- Red onion £0.19
- Pear £0.20
- Quiche £0.31 (reduced)
- Seasons best £0.66 (not sure what this is though! Will need to go and look in the fridge!!)
Thursday, August 06, 2009
I spent too long on the computer during the middle of the day - about 2 1/2 hours I think, but that was interspersed with phone calls and doing a bit of work. I have finally managed to go through all the filing, I think, and have almost filled a second bag.
For dinner, I cooked a meal in the wok which consisted of cubed potatoes, aubergine, spinach and cheese. It was very tasty, and quite different to the stews I would normally have. I ate at 6pm, and watched Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It is not as good as the book - at least about half of the story lines are missing! - but it wasn't as bad as I feared it was going to be, according to many of the reviews I read at the time. Passed a good couple of hours. Another hour tidying, and here I am.
One desk is almost cleared - well, there is a space in the middle, anyway - and I will attempt to plough through the papers on the other desk (H's desk) tomorrow. Then my aim is to dust everything and sweep and hoover the floors. I'll also have to go shopping, as my cousin is coming on Saturday and I'd like to cook her lunch. Also want to buy some more white vinegar, which really is marvellous for cleaning things! Used the last of it to descale the bottom of the kettle today. It's all shiny and bright now! But could do with some more so it descales further up ... I've already used it lots for glass and mirrors. The only problem is it makes the house stink of vinegar! I quite like it, but H isn't too keen, and it does get wearing after a while!
Right. Off to bed. Goodnight! (Wonder if I'll wake up as early tomorrow?) (Oh, and I've just eaten a banana - hadn't wanted to eat anything after 6pm or so, but I really felt hungry and I haven't had any fruit today. I have, however, drunk lots of glasses of water, which did a good job of filling me up until the banana, but it has also slowed me down because of the frequent comfort breaks!!)
Since then, until about half an hour ago, I have been destroying old documents. This has filled up the first of my bin bags, and has made some room in our filing cabinet so I can now file the documents that are cluttering up my desk because I couldn't fit them in the filing cabinet before. I have also booked a dental appointment for October, have spoken to my Auntie, and have had about half an hour on the internet on an occasional basis to break up the day. I've made plans to get a new oven as well, so the day has been going well so far. Although looking around the room, you wouldn't exactly notice any difference from yesterday - yet!
I have decided to keep a record of what I eat, drink and do during the day, and to record any weight loss. So this morning, at 6.15am, I weighed about 11st (give or take a lb).
Breakfast - cereal with milk (full fat)
Lunch - meatballs (leftovers from yesterday) on toast with a slice of cheese and a dollop of coleslaw
Drinks - so far, one large glass of water and one medium glass of white grape and apple juice.
Exercise - ripping up pieces of paper for hours on end. Surely, that must do my flappy upper arms some good?!
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I have started by spending £3.60 tonight on six eggs (£1.55) and some bin liners (£2.05). The bin liners are important, as you will see in my list of things to do, below.
Things to do:
- Thursday 6th August - Throw away as much as possible. Old bills, bits of papers, old shoes, broken/torn bags/clothes etc - if it can't be mended, and is no use to anyone anymore, it has to go. Hence the bin bags!
- Friday - Good clean of the whole apartment. Dusting, cleaning, hoovering - this is my day for it. Want the house gleaming by Saturday.
- Saturday - My cousin is coming to visit in the morning, hopefully will stay for lunch. So I'll need to plan something nice for that. Take it easy day.
- Sunday - Church, then any more cleaning etc that needs done. Eg bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. If I didn't manage it on Friday.
- Monday - I have lots of computer stuff to do for school. This would be a good day for that, if I have managed to finish tidying the house by then.
- Tuesday - One of my friends will have arrived back from overseas by then and hopefully I'll go and see her today!
- Wednesday - Probably will go into school today. I still have some windows to cover up and some filing to do. As long as I have an early night and get up bright and early (and take a packed lunch of a homemade sandwich!) then I should have plenty of time to get everything done that needs to be done. Hopefully.
- Thursday - I'd like to visit my Auntie. This would be a good time to do that.
- Friday - Hopefully at my Auntie's. Obviously, I'll need to phone and ask her first!
- Saturday - Might leave Auntie's and go and visit another friend and former colleague of mine on the way home.
- Sunday - If I stay over with colleague, then I might still be driving home today.
- Monday - I think H is planning on starting his return journey home around now. I'll try to get some more planning done for school, putting stuff on the internet etc. Would love to have everything up and running by the time I get back, and I'd also love to make the most of H not being around to do that. Of course, if I didn't manage to finish tidying the house, then that's what I'll probably be doing!!
- Tuesday - Think H will arrive back today. Hurrah!
Friday, July 03, 2009
Still, we teachers, like our classes, have to keep working right up to the end ...
My priorities for this weekend:
1) Departmental Improvement Plan - add changes ready for meeting on Monday
2) Budget Plan - type up ready for Monday meeting
3) Minutes - type up ready for - you've guessed it - Monday meeting
4) Type up minutes of meeting that I was in today
5) Write a reference
6) Write a submission for the Chartered London Teacher
Would love to think about teaching and learning at some point as well!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
However, I want to make a note of our excellent day out yesterday so I don't forget! Having enjoyed previous London Walks, we went on one of their Explorer Days for the first time. This meant getting up quite early in order to get to Waterloo for 9.45am. We arrived about half an hour early, and enjoyed watching all the women wandering around with big hats and fancy dresses, and men wearing top hat and tails, as they waited for their trains to Royal Ascot. Finally, we found the London Walk guides, and so began our big adventure.
The train takes about one and three quarter hours to reach Salisbury. When we arrived, we had a short walk along a beautiful stream in a green park. Myriads of ducks and sheep accompanied our meander along to a bridge from where Anthony Trollope was inspired to write the Chronicles of Barsetshire.
Our next stop was on the lawn - which we later discovered was a graveyard - in front of Salisbury Cathedral, an amazing building with the highest spire in the country. We learnt about the house for church widows, we saw Edward Heath's Arundels, and we learnt about the inspiration for Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Then we turned our attention to the cathedral.
It really is a beautiful building, and for me the piece de resistance is the beautiful font, which is full to overflowing, runs constantly, is sort of in the shape of a cross, and smoothly reflections the stained glass windows like a mirror. The window representing Prisoners of Conscience is also stunning, and the cloisters, open to a glowing green garden, were also uplifting.
We had a tasty lunch (I had tomato and basil soup with deliciously soft bread and butter), then met back with the tour group to take the coach to Stonehenge.
Richard, our guide, was excellent. He had a really good sense of suspense that left us wanting to know more. He also was a great revealer of obscure facts. As we travelled along the slightly twisting country roads, Richard pointed out both the thatched cottages and the Jacobean country home of Sting and Trudie Styler, where Madonna met Guy Ritchie, and where they had their honeymoon. A beautiful part of the country. Lucky them!
Finally, Stonehenge appeared before us on the horizon. I have to confess that, as we got closer, I whispered to H, "It's smaller than I imagined!" However, that did not diminish the excitement of seeing such an important and well known historical landmark. As Richard guided us round the circumference of the henge, we danced around, taking photos, jumping up and down and revelling in our surroundings. The huge grey stones make a great backdrop, but we were also interested in the long burial barrows, and the different type of burial they represent.
On our way back to the bus, we stopped off to buy a book and a mug, and discovered the rest of the party waiting for us by the coach. However, we still had about twenty minutes back in Salisbury to wander around the shops, before we arrived back at the station to take the London train home at 4.45pm.
When we arrived home, about 7pm or so, we were tired and very happy, with over 200 photos. We had had a lovely day, and once again, resolved that we should do more things like that more often. A very lovely day.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
And, two hours later, when we returned to Green Park, the sun was still shining, a glorious 5pm evening, so I went and sat on the grass in the park, which was wonderful. Another great day out in London!
Friday, April 17, 2009
I'm just back from another excellent London Walk, this time through the four Inns of Court, Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, Middle and Inner Temple. This time we were guided by Angela (the link is a recording of Angela giving another tour, from the London Walks website). She had a good, dry wit. We started round the corner from Holborn Tube Station, in the second oldest square in London. Lincoln's Inn Fields used to be just that, fields, owned by the Templar Knights before the were disbanded. After some interesting history while looking at the picturesque buildings that surround the square - I think the first of their type in London - we walked through the beautiful gardens, where we learnt the not so beautiful origins of the word "gala" - a gala day used to be a gallows day, a day where people were being hung, a grand day out for all the family. The slightly more palatable Sir John Soane's Museum was also pointed out - I must go and visit that one day.
From there, we walked across to the Inns of Court, where we wandered from one to another, admiring and admiring, never ceasing to be uplifted and entertained, overcome by the ornateness of the architecture or the sublimeness of the gardens. We learnt about the process of being called to the Bar, or becoming a solicitor. We heard about some of the more well known people who have belonged to each of the Inns. We wandered through Staple Inn as well, one of the Inns of Chancery, and passed by the Temple Church again (closed this time). One of the most interesting stories explained the meaning of John Donne's famous line, "ask not for whom the bell tolls" - the benchers were people with a certain position in the law courts, and when they died, a bell would be tolled. Barristers (I think) would send a junior clerk to find out who had died, and therefore what position had become vacant. Another particularly exciting find was the Ede & Ravenscroft office, familiar from my graduation documents - they also supply gowns and wigs as well as gowns and mortar boards. Unfortunately no wigs were on show today, but Angela gave a vivid description of the legal dress worn by different types of lawyers.
Our two hour tour ended up at the Royal Courts of Justice. I went inside, and they really are beautiful - the architect always wanted to build a cathedral, but was never asked to build one, so when he was given the commission for the courts he decided this would be his cathedral. They are certainly soaring and ornate. Unfortunately there were no court cases in session, but it was interesting to look through the glass panels on the doors into the courtrooms themselves.
Then a walk through the rain, and back home again. Another great day, courtesy of London Walks!
Also managed to visit all my grandparents while I was up, which was nice. They are all a bit under the weather at the moment. They are all in their eighties now, but that still seems very young! Hope they all get better.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Yesterday I managed to go on one of the London Walks that I enjoy so much. I had hoped to go on two, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, both glorious days with bright blue skies, but I didn’t manage it - something about the holidays means that being allowed a lie-in is too tempting, then H and I have headed off for lunch meaning I’ve missed the afternoon slots. Anyway, I got myself up and out (well, it was a 2pm walk!) and down to Temple for a walk entitled “The Occult and the Da Vinci Code”, or something like that. It ended up being mainly the Da Vinci Code, in fact the occult was never mentioned at all, but it was very interesting nonetheless.
I arrived an hour early, so after a baked potato at the Temple Bar next to the tube station - nice little place, very friendly woman - I decided to do some exploring of my own first. I wandered up a picturesque little street and was amazed to find the beautiful gothic buildings of the Royal Courts of Justice. I’d never been before. Then I thought I should really take some money out, and the bank that I went into made me take some more photos. The walls were all tiled, and there was an oval protuberance which reminded me of a holy water stoup, which at first made me wonder if this bank had formerly been a church; however, the amphibian stone carved creature that lurked above this stoup seemed out of place in a church, and made me think more of a butcher’s or some such place. Very curious.
My wallet thus topped up, I wandered back along the Strand, and stopped to admire and take photos of two churches, situated in the middle of the road. One had two figures outside it; a man sitting drinking in the early afternoon, and another standing spouting forth on topics of the day. Neither made much noise, however, with the second being Samuel Johnson, immortalised in bronze outside the church of St Clement Danes, the RAF church. Two wing commanders or so stood guard on plinths at the front. The second church, I soon realised, was the renowned St-Mary-le-Strand, where many of the great and good discussed all sorts of matters during lunchtime debates. It was busy again that afternoon, with a Maundy Thursday Eucharist being celebrated, so I did not go in.
Having wandered in the drizzle for some time, I thought I should start back to Temple. As I wandered down a little street, I passed more places of interest. Aldwych Tube Station, proud and resplendent in its tubular tiles, proclaiming “Entrance” and “Exit” to all that passed by, but barred up ever since the little line that serviced it had been closed down. Then a little sign, quietly pointing the way to the Roman Baths - “Down the stairs and to the right”. I decided to investigate, although the bleakness and sombreness of the alleyway reminded me a little too much of crime fiction and murder haunts. I soon found the window that separated me from the bath, and as I bent down, I had visions of being pushed through the glass to meet a bloody end on the ancient Roman flagstones. However, I survived, and was able to admire the rest of the Strand Lane on which I now found myself.
I arrived back at Temple as the drizzle tried to decide whether to get worse or give up and whimper out. Already, ten minutes to two, there was quite a crowd of people, looking round furtively, anxiously, eagerly, as befits a group of people who want to discover London’s hidden secrets and are trying to work out if the leader of the group is one of the them, or if they have wandered into some secret society by mistake. A woman in a billowing red anorak cape stood in the middle, and I mistook her to be the guide; however, I did not approach her, simply keeping my eyes on her, wondering when she would whip out her London Walks guides with a flourish. As I waited, I noticed a woman next to me - a tourist from Singapore on a working holiday, as it turned out - leafing through her own copy of the guide, so I asked if she was waiting for the Da Vinci Code Tour. She was. As we chatted, another woman approached us. She, too, was looking forward to learning more about the occultish mysteries of London. As 2pm approached, a sombre looking man in a red anorak appeared, propelling himself forward by means of an outstretched hand full of guides. The crowd that had seemed to me to have dispersed as the rain had become briefly heavier now stepped forward out of the shadows of Temple tube station and bustled around him. Dark faced and sullen, the man took the coins and notes from the outstretched hands, and we wondered if this is what became of people who spent too long dabbling in the Da Vinci enigmas.
However, Richard the Third - for it was he - was a wise if solemn guide, and over the next two hours he recounted the journey of Langdon and Sophie - or Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, if you prefer - from the floor of the Louvre, through the dash around Paris, greater France and London, all the way to the Rosslyn Chapel. We were impressed at the way he managed to summarise the twists and tales in the plot, and my question - “Do you think he really believes all this?” - became moot as he pointed out the mistakes of geography and place in the Da Vinci tale. We were shown both the places of interest in the book, told about encounters with the action in the film, and also learnt about the real life drama in the Dan Brown v Leigh and Baigent court case.
One of the first places we visited was the Temple Church. As we stood outside, we saw the symbol of the poverty of the Templar Knights, at first anyway, two knights sharing one horse. One part of the church is Roman, with rounded gables, the other Gothic, with pointed arches. The little courtyard had a tree in full blossom, although the skies overhead were slightly overcast. When we entered the church, I was surprised and delighted by the blueness of the interior. The long stained glass windows were mostly blue glass, which highlighted the blueness of the marble pillars, which reflected the blue hymnbooks laid out on the pews. The effigies of the knights were surrounded with many tourists, like myself on this occasion, snapping away and marvelling at the contrast between the crumbling stone and the smooth wood of the interior. As we sat down to listen to some more history, I was more taken with marvelling at the decoration than in listening to the tales of Sophie and Langdon. The Ten Commandments are in the middle of the nave, at the front, with the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed on either side. I wondered if that was because the knights had been in Jerusalem and had seen Jewish synagogues, which also have the Ten Commandments on display. Then, as we listened to Richard, the organist arrived, and began to play. Fortunately it was a quieter tune, but it seemed very fitting to be accompanied.
Our next stop was to be the building of the Department of Systematic Theology of King’s College London. However, this was one place where, as our guide pointed out, Dan Brown got his facts wrong. Apparently he places this building as being opposite the Houses of Parliament, but it is not there. Secondly, Richard pointed out the building that Dan Brown describes - but that is not the real Systematic Theology building. As we made our way to the correct place, we passed the Royal Courts of Justice again, and took photos of a dragon that protects one side of the City of London. We were on the border between the cities of London and Westminster. I also noticed a small plaque next to some brightly coloured windows, which announced that the building was the only surviving building on the Strand after the Great Fire of London.
The actual home of Systematic Theology is known as Norfolk Building. This is because it is housed in a listed building, originally Norfolk Hotel. It is a very pretty building with lots of ornate carvings, including the words “Norfolk Hotel” over the door. Nearby was the old abandoned Aldwych tube station. We learnt that it used to be the only stop on a line which only operated during rush hour, Mondays to Fridays. No wonder it was eventually closed down!
From here we returned to Temple, and, as advertised, like Robert and Sophie, we took a short tube ride. Next stop ... Westminster Abbey! Unfortunately (although understandably) we didn’t get to go inside - I will need to leave that to another day, next Friday perhaps? - but I was interested to learn that it was King Edward the Confessor who had the first Westminster Abbey built. He wanted to go on pilgrimage - can’t remember where to - but his advisers pointed out that he was ill and it would take some time to go on pilgrimage, so he should build a church instead. There was no room left in the city of London, so he built his church to the West - hence Westminster, the church in the West. Of course, it has taken centuries to build the church. In fact, there are carvings of Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero above one of the main entrances. So it’s not done yet! We walked round the back, near the entrance to the Chapter House - not a free entrance as claimed by Brown! - and as we learnt about the drama of the cryptex, a huddle of begowned Westminster choristers alligatored passed us to sing in the Abbey.
The riddle now unravelled, but we still had to see where one of the characters died. A quick wander down some roads - so busy looking and listening that I’m not quite sure where we went - and eventually we were in St James’ Park. I didn’t know they kept pelicans there. Very pretty and pink. Then my first view of Buckingham Palace in the few years that I have been living in London, away in the distance through the trees. While still admiring the palace, Richard told us about Duck Cottage on Duck Island - not named after the feathered creatures that live there, but after the gardener, Mr Duck.
I was then very interested to see Downing Street - even if it was only the back of the Street, on the way to Horse Guards Parade. And, two hours after we left Temple tube station, we arrived just in time for the Changing of the Guard! The soldiers were all very well turned out in their bright red jackets, long glossy black boots and golden plumed helmets. A large crowd had gathered to watch the ceremony, and we were not disappointed. Afterwards I went home, via Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station.
All in all, a wonderful excursion, and well worth the £7 plus tube fares. I would highly recommend anyone going on a London Walk - that was my third - and I certainly had a wonderful afternoon!
(And it’s now Thursday ... so this has taken some time to write. At least I’ve got wireless now and can upload it on the train south!)
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Happy birthday to my not-so-little-any-more sister!
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Don't worry, I am well and keeping busy - I've simply been trying to take a break from this blog and my computer in general - however I am busy elsewhere on the web. Should try to write more here occasionally though!
Now on Easter holidays - however, I have a revision session tomorrow, so I should really go and get some sleep now!
Monday, February 02, 2009
Nowadays I live in the slightly warmer parts of South East England, that is, London. Snow days are fair and few between. So it is quite exciting to have one today! Now, I realise that the weather conditions are making travel difficult for many people, and quite a few cars have been going (mostly slowly) along the road this morning. I don't envy those who have to make journeys today. However, I got the call just before I left the house at 7am, and I have spent an hour or so frollicking in the snow, taking photos and making snow angels. Highly recommended! I am sure that many of the photos will turn out to be blurry, because it's not really advisable to use the flash when the snow is falling, unless you like big white blobs all over your photos, and since it was quite dark, they need a longish exposure (and I wasn't going to frollick with a tripod). Anyway, it was fun!
Actually, the fun began last night, when H and I went to the ICA to see Mark Leckey give a talk about the Long Tail. I had no idea what to expect, and thought it would be some sort of pretty boring lecture; I was pleasantly surprised to discover a cross between a lecture and a performance, very entertainingly presented, with good use of multimedia (no powerpoints!!) including music and a gramaphone. Mark Leckey won the Turner Prize this year, which for once had sort of passed me by; I am now more interested in seeing some more of his art. It was also my first visit to the ICA; we are going back on Thursday to see Giles Foden talking to Tom Perotta.
Walking up the road round the corner from the Mall, taking photos in the snow, we passed a nice looking restaurant and decided to pop in. It was a Lebanese restaurant called Noura. Since we are in a credit crunch, I decided to try one of the cheaper main dishes on the menu, Musakaat Batenjan with rice, Baked seasoned aubergine cooked with tomato and chick peas, served with rice. H had the lamb skewers with salad. I have to say, I think I came out on top - particularly on such a cold, wintery night. The succulent aubergines, having soaked up the tomato juices, were just the right texture; soft and a bit gooey, not too oily or slimy. The chickpeas crumbled in my mouth, not like the hard little balls I have eaten before. And the rice, long and wild, each grain separate and special, was the ideal accompaniment.
On the home we took photos in the snow, before having a late night - all the more reason to appreciate a snow day! And, there, we're back to where we started. I'm going to go and catch up on that missing sleep now!
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Anyway, this all resulted in me thinking about the stereotypes that society has (ie us, ie me) of boys and girls. Ground floor ... lots of cuddly toys, very nice, gender neutral, I quite liked the colourful parrot hand puppet ... First floor, baby stuff and preschool colourful and noisy plastic ... Second floor ... oh, maybe that was the baby stuff, I wasn't really paying much attention to which floor it was ... third floor was pink, the girls' floor ... lots of nice arty crafty let's make cards and jewellery stuff ... fourth floor was called "hobbies" and I think had trains and cars and stuff (aha, trains, that's something that my nephew might like when he's older, I start to think) ... I begin to realise I am thinking completely stereotypically about boys at this point ... Then the top floor is the boys' floor ... it was about half the size of the other floors, and about one third of that space was taken up with a cafe. There were Power Rangers, cars, something to do with wrestling and - aha! I've got it! - Doctor Who stuff. Yes, I love Doctor Who, maybe N will love it too!
You see, our family has had very few boys, so we are all more used to girls, and I suppose I had some sort of idea in my head about the nice story telling, baking, dressing up as a princess activities that I could do with my little neice. However, she is a he, as mostly everybody else expected, and I - completely excited and madly in love! - have been a bit flummoxed about what to do with a boy! Anyway, as I started feeling much more comfortable with boy stuff while wandering around Hamleys - football, music, Doctor Who, cars, trains, trucks - I thought, poor wee N, he's only two and a half weeks old, he's an individual, he can do whatever he wants and be whoever he wants, and already here I am, putting him in a "boy" box.
Which may all support the idea that gender identity is a social construct rather than a genetic, "natural" one. I haven't really studied much sociology or pediatrics or whatever, so I don't really have much of interest to say in the matter, but I found it all quite curious as I was there.
And the present? Well, in the end there was nothing particularly appealing (unless you count the Dalek Electronic Voice Changer Mask, but I think at 17 days N could probably sit inside it rather than wear it and it might be rather uncomfortable for that), and I think my nephew would probably rather have a cuddle than yet another "thing", and he has quite enough cuddly toys to be getting on with for now since I think it's best to have one or two that you really love and hold on to rather than loads that you don't remember, so in the end I walked away empty handed. Which is probably quite the best option. But full of interest to know what he will eventually be interested in ...
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
We had a very packed Christmas holiday back with my family in Scotland. Here is a quick taster of what we got up to:
Tuesday 23 December
We drove 500 miles north. Arrived fairly late.
Wednesday 24 December
Got my hair cut and dyed, and bought a new outfit for Christmas. Delighted to get dress and shoes heavily reduced in sales. Went to the midnight Carol Singing and Watchnight Service, where I met up with an old school friends that I always swap presents with during this service.
Thursday 25 December
Christmas Day! Woke up earlier than necessary, but eventually got up anyway. Opened lots of lovely presents, including some great Covent Garden Sanctuary Spa stuff from H, a lasagne dish from S, and much needed clothes (and one of the books I asked for, Double Cross by Malorie Blackman) from M&D. We then went to my sister's for Christmas Dinner, made by her MIL. Very nice. It was really good to see S, especially as she is very pregnant, with a big bump, and I hadn't seen her for months, so it was very exciting! We ended the evening playing one of those fun brain games. Cranium.
Friday 26 December
It is a family tradition that we go to the home of a family friend on the morning of Boxing Day, where we have delicious vol-au-vents and sausage rolls, and today was no exception. In the afternoon, another old school friend came down with his sister, wife and daughter to see us. We last saw the family when their daughter was about a day or two old, and she is now about 18 months! Very sweet.
Saturday 27 December
S came through, and while M&D took Gran home, S and I went shopping for baby things. I also used some of the time to plan the Hogmanay party.
Sunday 28 December
I have to confess that I slept in, so no church this morning. However, once up, H and I visited a friend of his who was visiting his parents with his family. They live on a fairly nearby farm, and the scenery was amazing. Only the two men knew each other, but what a lovely family. We all got on well and it was a fun afternoon. He has three young boys, who were very friendly and polite. We drove home, decided to cook spaghetti bolognese for dinner, which we shared with a third old school friend of mine who came by. It's been a great holiday for catching up with old friends!
Monday 29 December
We drove through to Edinburgh to visit my other grandparents, and on the way dropped off to see my cousin who had a baby last year that we hadn't seen yet. That was a treat as well. She is very cute too. Then on to G&G's, picked up Mum's auntie, then popped by IKEA to collect some new baby furniture for S.
Tuesday 30 December
Dad and I went to my sister's with the furniture, where we managed to put up a chest of drawers and a cot. The wardrobe will have to wait for later. Dad went home when it was still light and I stayed with S, where we organised the new nursery. How exciting! Lots of little baby grows, hats and mittens. Can't wait to be an auntie!
Wednesday 31 December
This day was spent getting ready for the Hogmanay Party that we were hosting. This included buying costumes, ribbons, scarves etc, preparing all the quizzes and games for the evening, and getting all the food ready. Everyone mucked in, and I was still getting dressed when the guests arrived. We had a fun evening with a global theme. Lots of pitta breads, hummous, stews, rice, moussaka, stew, fruit salad and cranachan. Delicious. The best game was the Mummy game, where three people were wrapped up in toilet roll. New Year was celebrated throughout the evening, as different time lines were crossed, and with champagne at midnight. Everyone left around 3.30am.
Thursday 1 January 2009
We had a well deserved lie-in, but not for too long, before Auntie, Mum and I decided to go for a New Year walk up the hill. It was cold, so we wrapped up well, and wandered along a mile long circular route among the trees. Great. Then, in the afternoon, some friends of ours who have two young boys, came by. Again, we hadn't seen them for a couple of years, and how they have all grown! Lovely to see them again. We took loads of photos, and it was nice to catch up with the news.
Friday 2 January
Our family friend that we visit on Boxing Day traditionally comes to us on the second, and once again this year was no exception. Mum makes nice sausage rolls and rolls with salmon and egg, followed by tasty homemade mars bar cake and meringues. Delicious! In the afternoon my auntie and uncle brought my grandparents round for dinner. We had a lovely afternoon, which included S and I playing some traditional Scottish music, me on the fiddle, her on the guitar. Great afternoon and evening.
Saturday 3 January
H and I drove south, 500 miles, in lovely weather and on quiet roads.
Sunday 4 January
I got up, began to drive to work, and wrote off the car. So here we are. 2009.