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!