Sunday 22 April 2018

So Good They Named it Twice.

Well I managed to get back from the Big Apple just in time to enjoy this mini heatwave in the U.K so now I'm sitting here stiff as a board because I spent the whole day manically gardening yesterday!

The first time this year I have been able to do so and boy did it need it meaning I was out there far too long. Of course I focused on the back and all the neighbours focused on the front, so now our front garden is the only one in the street that looks a right mess, I would go out there today but I have family commitments and also I think if I kneel down one more time I most definitely will not get up again! God I hate getting old.

New York was great. The work went well. I was on my very best behaviour as I was out there with the director of student programme services. Thankfully I survived without incident and interviewed some great candidates. I was kind of nervous about doing the whole travelling alone thing, which is weird as I did it a fair bit when I was younger, I was fine though. Heading to our flight I saw George Osborne (and managed not to spit on/punch him) he's taller than I expected and also The Duke of Kent, who was utterly charming as he stood patiently with the rest of us waiting for our bags, which were delayed because the belt broke, which does seem to be a theme when I travel...
I then got stuck for what felt like a lifetime in immigration with a chap who on finding out I was on a business trip for The University of Oxford explained he was retiring soon, wants to travel to the UK, maybe take a course of some kind and would that be possible at Oxford?. Unsure if this was some kind of trap I asked him a few pertinent questions (to show I really was from Oxford University and hadn't just stolen a branded rucksack) and then directed him to the University's website to see which course might suit his needs. Meanwhile a massive queue had built up behind me and the angry resentment at the delay was palpable, I think they were hoping I would be frogmarched off by the men in latex gloves as the only justifiable end to their wait.

Anyway he finally stamped my form and I scuttled off to customs. Next my taxi driver couldn't find the hotel so when we were somewhere near I just got out and walked, I managed to find it in 30 seconds flat and gratefully checked in. It was lovely, compact and bijou by American standards but lovely.
I could have stolen the cushion off my bed quite easily. I'd have happily stayed another couple of nights but I had to check out after just 2 and move to the more modest, but still lovely, hotel I was staying in with my friends.

My friend Shannon I met for dinner last year but my friend Ash I haven't seen face to face for 9 years. I arrived before her so when she got to the room we had a shrieky emotional reunion at the room door while the bellhop stood next to us with her bags, rolling his eyes and sighing because we were taking too long and being embarrassing but he didn't want to leave as he was hoping for a tip.
We ended up having dinner at a Johnny Rockets diner which Shannon & Ash were slightly horrified about but it was late on a Friday and not many places were either still open or had space and as I pointed out I'm a tourist so a burger & fries is American dining to me!     
We talked until the early hours and therefore had a late and lazy start to our Saturday which was full of plans.

 First up was the Chelsea Flea Market via a couple of vintage store en route. Shannon is a native New Yorker so had picked the flea market carefully, it being smaller and aimed at locals rather than tourists. We stopped at a cute little shop called Pippin first which is known for it's antique and vintage jewellery.
As you can see they have expanded since Shannon was last there and now have accessories  as well as a whole homeware shop next door. It was a lovely place to browse with a good mix of items and price ranges. I was particularly taken with the way they stored their brooches.
I was chatting with the owner about it who said they were old printing type drawers, he had just removed the trays and lined them with baize. I so need one of these in my life though I very much doubt my bank balance would agree.

I could have gone mad but I made just one careful purchase, I didn't want to peak too soon.
From Pippin we went straight to the Flea Market which is an open air one. The weather was being very kind, almost too kind in fact, and had shot up to 79 degrees (26 for those in the UK) from 54 the day before.
It's amazing the difference the sun makes and everyone was smiling. I looked at a couple of stalls before heading to one piled high with stuff as I could see a girl with an interesting wicker bag in her hands.
Sure enough it was a gorgeous original 50's piece and as she examined it she asked the lady for the price so I slid in next to her to a) hear what the price might be and b) snatch it up the moment she put it down, if she put it down.
As I did so I spotted a flash of green patent so I stuck out a stealthy hand and whisked it in my direction.
My heart nearly stopped, It was a fabulous, if very very dirty bright green patent kelly bag. In the meantime the lady behind the stall had turned to a guy sitting a little way off and bellowed "how much for the bag?" He replied $10 so the girl next to me said "I'll take it" (damn!) So I raised my voice and said "How much for this one?" "also $10" so I replied "I'll take it" The girl next to me spun round and seeing the bag gasped and said "Oh! I would have bought that if I had seen it first" but believe me there was no way I was letting it go!! I handed over my $10 and scuttled off clutching it like Golum with his precious, I could not stop grinning.

It was absolutely filthy dirty but in perfect condition and I knew it would clean up. As it goes, when we got back to the hotel room I was wiping it with a wet paper towel planning to get the worst off before cleaning it properly at home when Ash spotted me and yelled at me to stop.

Now she is the type of person who travels with the kitchen sink and all the products you store underneath it too. She proceeded to rummage in her case before producing Clorox wipes, which I have never heard of before, but they brought the bag up so fabulously I actually went and bought some before I left!
Behold the bag, isn't it gorgeous?? I thought a piece of the piping on the top was missing but the handbag gods were smiling because when I opened the bag it was actually inside so I just need to glue it back on. You cannot begin to imagine how happy this makes me.

The only other purchase I made was from a stall loaded with huge plastic catering tubs of broches & bracelets which you just have to root through. Not ideal as I'm sure items get damaged and there is almost too much to go through, it puts you off. I did two tubs before admitting defeat and chose 3 brooches for $5 each.
By the time we had finished looking round we were very hot and in need of a comfort break. After refreshment we headed to the Fashion Institute of Technology via a couple of ridiculously expensive vintage stores to see the little Museum of Fashion which was closed when I went last year.

The current exhibits were on Norman Norell and The Body and I enjoyed both though they were tiny, it would be lovely to see more of their obviously vast collection.  From there we headed back to the hotel to relax and freshen up before dinner and the theatre.
Shannon had managed to get a deal on tickets for Drunk Shakespeare (or as it was called when on stage in the UK Shitfaced Shakespeare!).
The idea is one member of the cast gets to drink 5 shots of tequila at the beginning of a slightly ad lib-ed version of, in our case, Macbeth. This is tested by a member of the audience to check it is indeed alcohol and not water. Members of the audience also become king & queen and get to ring a bell twice during the play to make said cast member drink 2 more shots. Whilst I didn't get all the references to current American TV shows or top 40 songs, it was hilarious and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We had a mooch around Times Square afterwards then called it a night.

The next day Shannon had to head home so we went for a huge late brunch in The Pershing Square Cafe which is built sort of under, and into, the Pershing Square Bridge and is awesome. The weather had plummeted to 49 degrees with a biting wind so everyone was back in hats, gloves and scarves.

From there Ash and I headed into the New York Public Library and had a look round Revolution their exhibition on the 60s before taking this picture for Himself.
Who had told me off for being at The Ghostbusters library without taking a picture running screaming down the steps, as you can imagine we got some looks!.

We spent most of the afternoon diving into coffee shops because it was so bloody cold and by the time we went back to the hotel it was pouring with rain.
We googled restaurants close by and found an Italian that sounded nice about 3 blocks away so we braved the elements. There were only two other tables occupied when we got there but judging by the constant traffic from 3 soaked to the skin deliveroo type couriers, they were doing a brisk trade in take out.
The food was fine but randomly they still had Christmas decorations up... anyway we didn't linger and once back at the hotel I realised I'd left my beanie hat there. As it had only been £1 in the sale at H&M I couldn't arsed to battle back out there to collect it.

However we did have 20 mins to spare on our last morning and as it had stopped raining by then we nipped back. The restaurant was completely empty this time even though it was lunch time. It took a while to get the girl to understand we didn't want a table but were looking for lost property. I said 'black knitted beanie hat' about 4 times before the guy there came back with a pink bobble hat and scarf. In the meantime the girl had gone across to the table we had been sitting at and was looking on the floor, from which she produced my hat with a flourish, like a conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Ash and I clearly both looked and sounded aghast as we exclaimed "but we were here 2 days ago!" because she snapped quite defensively "It IS very dark in that corner" I took my hat and we left all the time muttering in horrified tones "I can't believe we ate there" " I wonder how often they actually mop their floors" "The Christmas decorations in April should have given it away"

Anyway to backtrack our final full day was one of biblical monsoon rain, not just for 20 minutes or half an hour like you get in the UK but for the whole day. I've never known anything like it. We decided to go to The Met as it would be warm dry and cultural, the whole of New York seemed to have had the same thought, it was packed to the rafters.

We had a great time though elbowing through the crowds and browsing to our hearts content, you know until that point where you can't face another gallery because you are so cultured out you aren't even seeing the objects any more. 
The whole time we were there we kept hearing this alarm going off, I thought maybe it was people getting too close to exhibits and triggering an invisible alarm. It was kind of irritating so Ash asked one of the guards and he said "Oh it's peoples cell phones, that's the flood alert going off."

We finally emerged in the late afternoon to bright sunshine and the most insane images of flooding
Many of the subway stations where overwhelmed and parts of Central Park were completely flooded too. My boss was flying home that day and was delayed, another colleague had to stay an extra day due to the weather.

My only other purchases whilst there were a huge book at The Met which I then had to lug home in my rucksack and a cute little bag with a 50's feel to it.

I got to fly Business Class home which was quite exciting until I discovered that there are shit seats in Business Class too, and of course that was the one I got. *sigh*

Right next to the toilet so brightly lit and with a steady footfall I would have been livid if I had actually paid for the seat. I was also too tall to lie comfortably on the recline into a bed seat. The food was lovely though as was getting to use the club lounge at the airport, though this was rather dimmed by the woman looking in great disbelief at my boarding card and exclaiming "YOU are flying business??"
It did also mean my bag came off priority so I was like a rat out of a trap to the coach stop back to Reading, there was one right away and a train home from Reading when I got there too. I got back in the house at 8.45am and collapsed into bed for a few hours before tipping out the case and starting the first of many loads of laundry.   

Sunday 1 April 2018

Snow, Culture and Frocks.

Well March has gone and I managed not to blog again, these monthly posts really are becoming a bad habit.
Work is still busy right now and we've had a little spate of resignations which doesn't help, it will be interesting to see what evolves over the next few months... let's just say I see some epic power struggles taking place. My plan in all of this is to keep my head down and carry on carrying on.

I started the month with a work event in London, no one from recruitment was free so I volunteered, it was kind of fun (even though it was on a Saturday) as it's been years since I last did one, we had a gratifying queue. I did my usual trick at the end of the day of getting in the lift, hitting the button for the floor I want and then just getting out when the lift stops without checking it's actually where I want to be first. I do this all the time and inevitably end up on the wrong floor, I never learn. This time there was another guy with me, so we both laughed in an embarrassed way and got chatting as we waited for the lift to come back, turns out he was from the other university in Oxford and had also stood in at the last minute for someone else. So we shared a cab back to Paddington which was ace as the underground was half closed that day and I was dreading the faff of finding my way back. It then turned out our next train wasn't for 40 mins so we went for a drink. Isn't it funny how life throws these things at you sometimes? I really was not looking forward to the whole journey home alone and so instead I was provided with some lovely company which made the time fly.
Soo said if it was a book of film this would have been the start of a romance, or a thriller but let me assure you it was neither, just some convivial company after a long day of being in work mode.

Talking of Soo we had to cancel plans to meet up not once but twice due to this mental weather we have been having. Our plans were scuppered twice by heavy snow. I even got a day of working from home due to the weather, which was a right Brucie bonus if I'm honest. I am SO over the cold weather though, where is the Spring?? I don't even want to think about our heating bill...

Anyway Soo and I finally did get together for a theatre date. I was very excited when I spotted an Agatha Christie production was going to be at The Playhouse in Oxford. Neither Himself or Soo's other half wanted to go (more fool's them) so we had a girl's night out to see 'Love from a Stranger'
To be fair The Playhouse blurb did make it sound more like a light romance which was why Himself was not keen. As it goes it was a deliciously dark and creepy rather sinister story with a classic Christie twist at the end. You do find that her stand alone stories, and this is based on one of those, are very much darker than people expect, she does plum the depths of an evil human psyche with relish.
I don't think I have ever seen a play where the tension is cranked up to such a degree that when it ended there was a moment of total silence from the whole audience then an audible intake of breath before the applause started and you realise it wasn't just you holding your breath.
I won't give any spoilers but it's an amazing production with an amazing cast and if you get the chance to see it,do!

I also did a bit of culture this month and popped my Literary Festival cherry.
I'm a bit ashamed to say it has taken me this many years to actually attend some of the festival, mostly these days I forget it is on as I don't go to that end of the city but we actually had some talks on at the school this year which we all got an email about so I took a look at the schedule. In the past there have been speakers I'd have loved to see but my old job wouldn't give you time off and typically the things that interested me were never in the evenings or at weekends but always slap bang in the middle of the day. This time I spotted 2 things on the same day, just an hour apart and as I had some lieu time to use up I booked some tickets.
First I went to see 'Railways and the Raj - How the Age of Steam Transformed India' by Christian Wolmer who I understand is a world authority on railways and trains. I'm not a huge fan of trains per se but having just been to India and having watched a fascinating series on the Indian railway I thought it would be interesting.
It was at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon so as you can imagine it was full of train enthusiasts of a certain age and pensioners. The person who did the introduction said jokingly " I shouldn't need to say this really but please do make sure your phones are switched off"

You know where I am going with this don't you?

Literally 5 minutes in a phone roars into life, it's the old guy sitting across the aisle from me. He takes the phone slowly out of his shirt pocket and rather than switching it straight off peers at it for what seemed like forever before hitting end call button. He then fiddles with a button on the side and puts it back in his pocket. I thought he had finally turned it off, but no he had just turned it down a bit because a few minutes later it roars into life again just a tad quieter! By this time we are all looking at him and not poor Christian Wolmer, who frankly should have taken that phone and slung it. He does the same thing and thankfully it doesn't ring again, but he has left it on, and he has his email account open so literally every few minutes it's going 'ping' with an email coming in. Every time it does so he takes it out of his pocket and scrolls through the email. I was ready to beat him to death with that bloody phone by the end.
I am so used to the younger generation being incapable of leaving their phone alone for more than 30 seconds it was a revelation to see a grey haired pensioner behaving the same way!     
Other than that the talk was good, though Christian is definitely an author and not a public speaker if you get my drift. I'll be giving the book a go when it comes out in paperback.

My next talk wasn't for an hour so I had an extortionate cup of tea and bit of cake before sitting outside in the sun for a few minutes, you have to make the most of it these days!
I then headed into the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library for 'Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book - The Life and Times of a Civil War Heroine' by Lucy Moore.

I love Lucy Moore's writing and have read several of her books, I have also had a fascination with the English Civil War for years now and there is such a wealth of history of that era around Oxfordshire.

Once the talk finally got going (technical issues, it was funny to see the same AV guys as when I used to work at the Bodleian flapping about, 7 years later and they still can't get anything working!!) it was fascinating.
I hadn't realised that a receipt book was the precursor to Mrs Beaton, so full of recipes for food and medicine and the minutiae of how to run a house and home and not just household accounts. It turns out Anne Fanshawe is famous for writing a diary of the time but until the 1990's they didn't realise she also had this receipt book as it went to a different branch of the family, so putting the two together has given a whole new wealth of detail about holding a home together through a brutal civil war.
I absolutely loved this talk and was so glad I went and such a great setting for it too.

My final outing this month was to see the comedian Richard Herring's new show 'Oh frig I'm 50' in Reading. There was the most mental hail storm which had us dashing into Primark to take shelter! For about 20 minutes it hailed like armageddon, when we finally ventured out there was a carpet of white and great piles of hail stones like snow drifts!?!
The show was good fun , but not ideal for me as I am in complete denial about impending birthdays right now.

So I'll end with the frock round up, I have done a fair bit of clothes buying in March all completely unintentional I assure you.
You will be delighted to hear the one dress I bought last month,
yes this one, had me slipping off the wagon and failing all my resolutions, and it was only February *sigh*
To be fair it was meant to arrive the day before I went to India but was late and arrived the day I left so I didn't get the chance to pick it up from work until a week later.
I didn't try it on straight away as is my new resolution which means I kind of forgot about it and when I finally did it was way too big and way too late to send it back.
Thankfully it was a sale purchase and I managed to get exactly what I paid for it selling on Ebay. Lesson learnt? Probably not.

So this month I have bought new jeans and a couple of breton tops, new undies and a cherry print blouse. I have also ordered some cut off jeans, black leggings, elephant print lounge pants and wide legged trousers for work from the Sainsbury's clothing event, but they haven't arrived yet. 

I absolutely fell in love with one of the dresses from Hell Bunny's new Spring range and when I also got a 20% voucher I couldn't resist.
I love it and yes, yes I tried it on as soon as it arrived!
I also bought this one from their sale section

both fit perfectly = Huzzah.
I had to nip into town for a few bits and spotted a green dress in the window of New Look. As you know I am a sucker for green which is en vogue right now apparently. I knew I had to have it so I popped in and ended up buying two dresses (it seems to be becoming a habit!)

but I absolutely love them both and get complimented on the green one every time I wear it.

So that was March, I suspect you may well get just one blog off me next month too as I an working all weekend next weekend (bah) and then I'm off to New York again for work the following week.
This time I have actually managed to tack some holiday on the end of the trip which I am thrilled about. More anon.