Thursday 11 April 2024

A March Round-up Part One.

Well I think I might have to do March in two postings it was a mega busy month. 

I started with a treat to myself, something to look forward to for surviving January, and as it turned out February at work. What used to be a busy month had now morphed into a busy 8 -10 weeks!

I had wanted to go to the Coco Chanel exhibition at the V&A but it sold out before I could get a ticket. Just before I travelled to New York I got an email to say they had extended the run by 2 weeks and that the tickets would be going on sale at 10am the next day. I stuck a reminder in my calendar and logged in for 10am, I was over 200th in a queue…

Over the next 2 or 3 hours I would check back every so often as my position in the queue crept closer and closer to single digits. I was convinced it would be sold out before I got to 1st in the queue but miracle of miracles it didn’t. I managed to get one ticket for the 4th March. I instantly put in a holiday form which was thankfully granted.


I found myself on the tube with a huge school party which entertained me no end on the short journey to South Kensington. We all piled off the train and headed down the museums tunnel where several other school parties added to the decibels! 

Thankfully all bar one group peeled off at the entrance to the Natural History Museum. I had a bit of time before my entry, so first stop was the café for much needed cup of tea and a cheeky pain aux raisin. I then had a mooch around the shop and a couple of my other favourite galleries.

Also stopping to watch a busy team of staff painstakingly manoeuvring this gorgeous statue into position. 

I got told off for taking this picture later that day, I’m not quite sure why.

A friend had gone to the Chanel exhibition on the Saturday and said it was rammed. I had hoped a Monday would be a little quieter, but it was absolutely packed too. I just took my time and waited patiently to get a closer look, read the information and take some pictures. It was definitely one of the best exhibitions I’ve been to in some time, I absolutely loved it and managed to spend a crazy amount of time in there. It really was lovely to just go at my own pace though, especially after the frantic last few months. I was of course more taken with the early pieces but I surprised myself with how many of the later pieces I loved too.

I decided against eating a late lunch there and instead made my way back to Paddington, very randomly catching the same tube train back as the school party I had met in the morning! 

Instead, as I had 30 minutes before my train, I grabbed a meal deal in Sainsburys which I ate on the train home. I’m so glad I got to go, and also that I had planned this treat for myself. 

The next day I had the afternoon off work and went for lunch with my friend's Liz and Carole. We tried the new Italian where Himself and I went last month. The food was more flavourful this time. I will definitely go again.

I had to travel again for work that Friday, this time going to Munich. 

The timing wasn’t great as it was not only Mother’s day on the Sunday it was also a year since Dad died and again my brother was away. I really could have done with being at home for Mum but instead settled for flying home on Saturday evening, going straight to the airport from the event. 

Luckily the colleague I was travelling with also had Mother’s day plans so was happy with the arrangement. We had decided to fly on Friday morning so we could at least have half a day to look around Munich but sadly it was not to be. 

On Tuesday late evening I got a voice message to say my flight had been cancelled. Cue 2 days of frantically trying to organise something else with the company who books our work flights (don’t get me started on what I think of them – it’s a long and exhausting story!) 

It turns out not only were Lufthansa on strike, so were all the rail staff. We by sheer fluke it would seem managed to get on a flight with BA at 5pm on Friday, finally arriving at our hotel at 9.30pm after we had a nail-biting 30 minutes at the airport trying to confirm our seats on the Lufthansa flight home the next day. The strike was due to end on the Saturday morning and as our flight had been a return they had cancelled the whole thing, so we had to rebook the return part of it. By that point I couldn’t be bothered with going out to eat so went to bed with a book instead.    


The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, checked out of the hotel and took the 15 minute walk to the venue where the event was. It was a glorious day.

On arrival we were greeted with 'did you have any trouble getting here?' It turned out 2 of the Italian business schools didn’t make it at all because Italy was also in strike, and we got off very lightly compared to others. The poor girl from London Business School had had to fly to Amsterdam and could only get a flight home and 8pm that evening and into Gatwick!   

The event went well, and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. It was frankly like being in one of those horror apocalypse films! This huge airport almost completely empty very weird. 

We did manage to find somewhere to eat a frankly revolting burger and chips. The flight home turned out to be on a tiny plane with Finair and the aircrew were so stereotypical you couldn’t help but chuckle. Literally all of the cabin crew being tall and blonde and one in particular with waist length white blonde hair in a loose plait, I was waiting for her to break into ‘Let it Go’ at any moment!

The Pilot was enormous, with a huge beard, long hair and tattoos, I couldn’t help wondering what my smart R.A.F short back and sides Dad would have thought of that.   


It turned out Nephew Number One’s band were playing in Reading that night so Himself had suggested we go. Initially I thought I would have time to go home and change but in the end by the time my airlink coach got back to Reading it was 8.45pm. 

So I just waited for Himself at the station and we walked to the venue with me in my smart work togs and with my work rucksack. I said I felt like the disapproving maiden aunt. We had time to grab a much needed and revitalising pint before the band came on. 

I said to Himself afterward I love how confident and comfortable in their own skin this generation are. When I was in my 20’s it was very much about having the right image, almost wearing a uniform, being part of the tribe. Whereas everyone there, particularly the girls, just wore what the hell they wanted and didn’t give a shit. I particularly loved that one girl was even sat crocheting as she watched.

Once the band had finished we took our leave and I got to go home, have a lovely hot shower and fall into bed. 


The next day we had a lazy breakfast in bed before Mum came over at 12. We had booked a table for Sunday lunch at our favourite pub and had decided to walk there as the weather had held and the ground wasn’t too wet. It was a gentle meander and we arrived with time to have a drink before sitting down. We all had roast beef and Mum and I also had the amazing homemade cheesecake. I think I rolled home.


Once we got back home Nephew Number One came over for a cup of tea. He hadn’t seen Mum in person since Christmas and I had also bought him a couple of silly bits in the US. Mum left before it got dark and he finally went about 7.30pm. A lovely day all round given the sad anniversary, we did raise a toast to Dad.


The following Tuesday I had another day off work to meet with Soo. Another long overdue get together! She had decided on Bourton on the Water as it has been years since we have been there together. We got there late morning and had a slow amble looking in various shops before finding a café/antique shop for a delicious jacket potato with tuna and a shared cream tea. 

This was followed by a bit more mooching  

I fell in love with all the moss growing on this tree.

Sadly the weather was miserable not that it mattered one bit, I’m not sure we drew breath the whole day, it was so lovely to see her and catch up properly. 

My only purchases were this ceramic bird plaque from a charity shop 

and a Snoopy from what I can only describe as the most terrifying teddy bear shop I have ever had the misfortune to find myself in. We were lured in by some Moorcroft pottery in the window, Soo is a big fan, but once inside….well. 

I’m not sure how but these teddy bears looked like they wanted to steal your souls in the night, they were quite unnerving, especially a shop full of them. I pinched this picture off their website!

I spotted poor old Snoopy in a cabinet and felt obliged to rescue him! Rather randomly he turns out to be a Steiff, and was crazy cheap for a Steiff. Anyway, I think he is relieved to be free and resting on the top of my bookcase!


On Saturday Himself and I headed to Oxford, we had tickets for 'Into the Uncanny with Danny Robins, Chris French and Deborah Hyde' as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. 

Himself did a crash course in the Uncanny podcast the week before we went as he has never listened to it before, I’m pretty sure he never will again! It was not really his cup of tea. 

The talk itself was fine, and I shall definitely be checking out both the books they were promoting, but it would definitely have been better if they had stuck to questions from the chair Stephen Law, rather than let the audience lose on the mic. As inevitably you got someone who wanted to go on and on and on about themselves. Overall, I did enjoy it though and I did bump ino a friend Alison there who I’m planning to catch up with again properly in the next couple of weeks.  


I shall sign off this post here and continue with the rest of the month in a separate entry. I’m looking forward to sharing the seaside, Bagpuss and Ghostbusters with you!


Thursday 7 March 2024

The Year so Far. Exhibitions, Frocks and Travel.

 Well I should have known I wouldn’t get the chance to blog in January - February. It’s always a crazy busy time at work and this year we had a bumper application stage, so I spent the majority of those months putting in some long hours which means the last thing I feel like doing in the evening is more screen time. I’m pretty much out the other side now, just one more event in Munich on Saturday and then an open day, before I can head out for a well earned few days off and collapse in a heap at the seaside! 

We started the year with a walk, in between torrential down pours, to our favourite pub. Just like last year they opened until 6pm serving all day breakfasts accompanied by a jam session with local musicians, more and more of whom kept arriving as the afternoon wore on. We left just before they closed and walked home in a torrential downpour, which seemed to be the theme of January.

I have never seen rain quite like that provided by Storm Henk. I ended up going to my pilates class in wellington boots and waterproofs! The main road I walk down has a slight incline and the water was flowing ankle deep like a river with the cars throwing up huge bow waves as they passed by. By the time I got home it turned out the town was cut off, with all three roads into it blocked by flooding, something that has never happened before in its history. 

I’m so grateful for hybrid working these days. Having said that I did have to go into the office the next day and as the train station is at the bottom of the hill it often fills with water and this was no exception. I had to cross pallet stepping stones to get to the stairs up to the platform! Thankfully it had all been pumped out by the time I made my return journey.


I didn’t do a whole lot in January other than working like a dog. I was garden consultant to my brother on two weekends. They are having their garden landscaped so one Saturday I went down to look at designs and talk about moving plants/shrubs and the next I went down and oversaw the actual moving of said plants and shrubs on a bitterly cold and wet day. Not an ideal thing to do at that time of year but necessary. Fingers crossed they all survive.


On the 27th I had a date in the diary to finally catch up with Charlotte and Alex after we had to postpone a couple of times. I still had Alex’s birthday present from May! 

We met at the Tate Gallery for the Women in Revolt – Art and Activism in the UK 1970 -1990 exhibition.

 It was so lovely to see them both and we headed to the café for a good catch up of news before our ticketed entry to the exhibition. I was firstly blown away by how huge it was! 

Room after room of things to take in and digest. It’s interesting how we all resonated with different exhibits. It was an incredibly powerful exhibition though I will admit whilst some things moved me incredibly some left me cold. Let’s just say even when I was an art student I never got the attraction of using actual bodily fluids as a medium to create with.

Once we had seen our fill we decided to try and find somewhere for lunch which proved far more challenging than we expected with one restaurant after another full and queuing out the door. I guess that’s the downside of going to London on the first Saturday after payday! We found a burger place in the end and finally got to sit down and exchange Christmas (and birthday) presents. We decamped to a pub and then went for a wander before heading off for our various trains home.


The first Saturday in February I was working  (boo) and the Sunday I went out for lunch with two friends from from my college days. We had a delicious roast dinner and a jolly good catch up as it's been about 4 years since we last saw each other.

The second one Himself had bought tickets to go and see the comedian Matthew Holness, as the horror writer Garth Marenghi, on tour to support his second novel written as that persona. You may remember we went to see the first tour towards the end of last year, but if not the character is a spoof of those late 70’s early 80’s horror writers like Stephen King and Shaun Hutson and there was a comedy show on Channel 4 called Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place.

This time it was at the Town Hall in Reading, and we were in the front row! I wasn’t sure if the format would work for a second time round and in such a big venue, but I shouldn’t have worried. Matthew is such a clever entertainer and can think so quickly on his feet. I found it even more funny this time. 

There was the chance of a book signing both times and in November we got him to sign the first book with a quote from the TV series Dark Place about poaching eggs in soup, I don’t know why but it always cracked me up. You do need to hear it in context.

Very randomly there was a line from the second book about boiling eggs too so Himself quickly wrote it out on the post it notes they give you as you queue. 

Here’s hoping when the final part comes out, it’s a trilogy apparently, there is also an egg quote so we can have a complete set.  


The following Saturday I was off to New York for work. It was a bit of a last minute thing and my first time there since before covid, in fact my first long haul travel since before covid. 

I travelled with my colleague Hazel who had never been to NY before and was super excited. Her boyfriend Adam also came and as he was economy, and we were premium economy (a perk we are allowed if the flight is over 7 hours) they tag teamed for the whole flight so they could both experience the more comfortable chair. 

There had been thick snow in NY that week, their first in two and a half years! (Explain that to me oh global warming deniers) It was still on the ground when we arrived which was very pretty. Sadly it didn’t last long, it was very cold but thankfully crisp and sunny. Hazel and Adam had a list of things they wanted to do and places/things they wanted to eat so that first night I took them to John’s for pizza. Everyone says you have to go to Joe's pizza but I prefer John's and it didn't let me down. Even though we had a small the pizzas were the size of the table and we ended up with a big take out box too.


On the Sunday we had one free day so after breakfast they headed out with their full itinerary and I waited for my friend Shannon at our hotel. It was so lovely to see her after 5 years and the first thing she did was hand over a vintage bag I had bought online. It could only be delivered to the US so I’d had it delivered to her house fully expecting to pick it up long before now! 

I had completely forgotten what it looked like, thankfully I was delighted with the purchase. She also gave me 3 bottles of Bath and Body Works body spray. I had asked her to get me a bottle when they rereleased my favourite scent a few years back on a limited edition. I hadn’t expected 3 bottles, but apparently it was on an offer at the time so I’m good for at least the next 5 years too.


We jumped in a cab over to the Grand Bazaar Flea Market which is one Shannon had never been too. It was ok, not as good as I had hoped and my first indication that the prices in NY have gone up considerably. I was really shocked at some of the prices.

I bought a brooch which was more than I would have liked to pay even at a haggled price. 

From there we had a wander then stopped for a hot drink and a good catch up before taking a cab to the Carnegie Diner which was somewhere I had been recommended. Sadly, it was too full so we walked back towards my hotel and another diner nearby that Shannon knew. 

We had a long leisurely lunch before I walked her back to her bus stop. As it was not quite 5pm I walked to Grand Central Station and the nearby branch of Bath and Body Works to stock up as you can’t buy their full range in the UK.

                                                      I adore the Chrysler Building!

I had a blissful browse and couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw a buy 3 get 3 free sign. I even checked with a member of staff if it was genuine which she confirmed it was so I ended up getting 2 of each of the 3 things in my basket! 

The girl at the till said as a rule people don’t bother with it as 6 items is too many, but for someone out of town like me it was too good to miss. I just had to hope my case wasn’t going to be too heavy going home! 

From there I headed back to 5th Avenue and mooched in the general direction of Uniqlo as I know they tend to have a range of Snoopy clothing in the US we don’t get in the UK, sure enough I found myself a sweatshirt. 

I browsed a few more places and spent a blissful long time in one of the big book stores then headed back towards the hotel at the same time as checking out places to eat as I wasn’t sure what Hazel and Adam were doing that evening.

                                                        I was up the top of this very building the next day!

 As it happened they got back not long after me, and messaged to see if I had eaten yet. The were both very tired and wanting something quick so we found a Five Guys and had burgers.


The next day they had booked to go up the Rockefeller Center at 10am as the rest of the day Hazel and I had to work. Whilst I had been inside the building I had never been to the top so booked a ticket and joined them. The views were very cool and so was the wind! I’m glad I had had the foresight to wrap up warm. 

Adam had been recommended Katz Deli but it was too far away, so we ended up at the Pershing Diner for brunch before he took himself off for some shopping and we went to work. 

That night we had booked the Carnegie Diner for dinner and Adam and I sampled the famous cheesecake!


Tuesday Hazel and I were working at the University of Oxford offices and Adam had a couple of trips planned but met us for lunch in between. He was flying home late that night, so we had a fairly early dinner at Sarge’s the second-best place to get a pastrami sandwich after Katz Deli apparently. 

It had a pound of meat in it which is obscene, I did not partake. Their fries were amazing though. 

From there it was back to the hotel to write up notes and prep for the next day’s interviews, though we did nip out for a tea from Dunkin’ Donuts as they were the only place we could find serving decaf tea. 

Wednesday Hazel and I were back in the offices.

 Yes that is the Empire State Building, there are worse views to have from your office window!

We took ourselves to the New York Public Library in our lunch break to look at the free exhibition they always have on. This time it was treasures from their collection which was fascinating and reminded me of my many years at the Bodleian in Oxford and all the random things that ended up in their collections other than books. We grabbed a sandwich lunch in their café and browsed the gift shop.

After work we headed to Macy’s so Hazel could experience it and had dinner in one of the restaurants there before back to the hotel for more writing up of notes and in my case prepping for another day of interviews as well as packing.


We had breakfast together the next morning before Hazel headed off to the airport to fly to San Francisco, and I went back to the offices for one final day of interviewing. 

I finished at about 3pm and nipped back to the hotel to collect my case and catch an uber to JFK to fly home. I had a great chat with my driver which ranged from about how expensive everything has got, to Trump, the government in the UK and the state of the world today in general. We also covered the best places to eat in NY, we managed two of them on this trip apparently, as well as in Oxford. It turned out he used to manage a couple of nightclubs in the 80’s and 90’s and as you can imagine had some stories to tell. I told him he should write a book and he said his friends always tell him that too. He now drives an uber just for something to do for 6 months of the year and the other 6 months are spent at his house by the sea!

I landed at 6am the following morning and was home by just gone 9am. It was a full on few days with long hours, stopping only for dinner before getting back to it until 10pm most nights. My sleep was still on UK time at first and then of course on US time for 3-4 days when I got home! I slept like a dream that first night and then was wide awake for the next 3 nights SIGH.


I did get home to some lovely post Valentine’s day flowers and Himself took me out for dinner on the Saturday to the new Italian restaurant in town that has opened where Prezzo used to be. It’s a family run restaurant and the atmosphere was bright and buzzy. It was only the second week they have been open so it was lovely and busy, I hope they can keep up the momentum it’s great to have somewhere that is not a big chain.  


Sunday, we went for a long walk stopping for a cheeky beer at our favourite pub in the hope it might tire me out and I’d sleep but sadly it didn't.   


I did do a little sale shopping in January. Sugarhill had a sale and then what they called an 'archive sale' so I might have bought a couple of things… I am trying to be more thoughtful with my buying and avoiding fast fashion. I like thier ethics and their dresses.

 I also found this lovely dress on All About Audrey website sale.

As long time readers of my blog will know I am a fan of Erswilder brooches and whilst I have resisted buying any from the new ranges whilst all the house chaos was going on I did succumb to the cocktail shaker and then found one of their UK stockists was having a big sale with some at just £10, and well it would have been rude not too


My lovely burgandy boots bought in Bournemouth in 2022 died so I was on the hunt for something to replace them and found a lovely pair in the Clarks sale. 

They have already had a lot of wear.

I'll sign of for now, I need to go to bed before Munich tomorrow, I haven't even packed yet.

 Lots of fun things lined up for March including Dinner with dinosaurs, Coco Chanel, The Cotswolds, food, the seaside and Bagpuss!