The countryside of London

It’s been an age since I last visited my blog in fact too long! I guess I’ve grown too lazy or too busy to update it as much as I would like.

I find myself feeling the same way with my Twitter account, I find i have spurts of enthusiasm of use & then a few days rest from it.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to share intact I am going to bore you now with a recent visit to London I had.

I travelled down on my own on a Wednesday evening, quite happily sat in a carriage pretty much to myself reading and listening to some music, a train journey through the dark evening always seems more adventurous than one through the day. The destination feels much further away as you thunder through the darkness, the lights of the occasional station blurring by.

Anyhow I met Alex at the station and we headed out to Wimbledon, this was my first venue out to the famous area of the city! I wasn’t sure what to expect other than a tennis club, which it turns out isn’t really in the Wimbledon station area anyway. I discovered a country town of sorts, split in two by a hill! It’s odd I don’t ever recall walking up a hill in London before but I have now! The top of the hill offered what I think of as a rural town high street, filled with independent shops & pubs where locals drank. Whilst in “low town” there were the high street names, bright bars & a wonderful sushi restaurant where I ate my first (other than supermarket bought) sushi.

Following a few beers it was a short journey back to Southfields another surprisingly none city like area of London, it was on the walk from the tube station to the house that the drunken pair that we were decided to buy & eat some Biltong & it was also here we stupidly decided to feed & pet a rather tame urban fox, luckily a) the fox didn’t bite us b) gave us fleas and c) didn’t follow us home. It just seemed grateful for the Biltong & that we weren’t in Hunting Pinks :)

The following morning we had to get to Roehampton and as it was a dry winters morning we decided to walk, we strolled past old farm buildings that had been eaten up & developed into schools, we past old lodge houses & the sites of former big houses & this was before we even strolled over Putney Heath. It was here to my delight we spotted the Green Parrots, something that Alex had never encountered before, I shared the stories of how when I was working in Croydon I would often see them from the office window & they were a common sight nowadays.

We carried on our walk & after out pits top in Roehampton we carried on our walk, Alex although still a little dazed from his anestetic knew of a cafe were we could lunch, we walked up into Barnes again a town that had a country town feel, with its duck pond in the middle of the village green I could have been back home in Shropshire.

We had lunch in a Greek cafe, we drank homemade Lemonades & strong coffees. We ate a Filo pastry pie filled with Feta & Courgettes. And whilst Alex chatted away in Greek to the owner I lazily flicked through Greek magazines. We waited for the rain to stop and decided to walk to Hammersmith.

The riverside path although muddy gave a perfect view point to spot various water fowl, several Herons, numerous Cormorants and many screeching groups of Green Parrots. The walk in no time took us over the Hammersmith Bridge & into what I know as London, it was a busy bustling high street that had barely changed since my last visit in 1998.

From Hammersmith to Kensington High Street where we visited the often talked about Cheese Room at Whole Food Market (no cheese was purchased but bread certainly was) and then it was time for a walk through the parks towards a secret location that Alex wanted to show me!

We meandered through Kensington Gardens watching the dogs all chase around, some waiting under trees for the Squirrels to come back down the trees. We crossed through into Hyde Park where I lost count of all the birds I spotted and then across Hyde Park Corner & down Constitution Hill towards Buckingham Palace (No trip to the capital is complete without a visit to see if the queen is at home)

It was here that I decided that I wanted to see the Pelicans of St James Park, again something that Alex had not encountered. Of course today they were nowhere to be seen!! Typical however the Squirrels gave great entertainment as they conned & delighted the tourists out of food.

It was now we walked through familiar streets and saw the sights we all know as London, we passed The Houses of Parliament & as we walked along Victoria Embankment the London Eye slowly turned on the other side of the River Thames, for a brief moment it reminded me of our trip to Paris (the cold and rather dour faced passers by soon reminded me we were not in Paris in September but London in January)

We cut through the modern Embankment station and took a side street again as we climbed down some steps I yet again returned to Paris. A cafe with outdoor seating, the air filled with conversation. Alex disappeared through some wooden doors and we descended into a cellar wine bar!

With extremely limited seating & extremely limited dealing height Gordon’s Wine Bar sells wine & offers plates of cheese, meat & bread all at very reasonable prices. If you are lucky enough to get a seat in the cellar then do so. There are no lights there are only candles & there are no obvious reservations it’s a case of sit where you can & you will find yourself talking to others. It’s how drinking & socialising should be.

Several bottles of wine (& plates of cheese & bread) it was time for the train back to Shropshire & as the train hurtled through the darkness back home I was more than content reading my book as Alex slept gently leaning on my shoulder.

A pit stop!

I’m not sure where 2013 has gone! This I feel officially makes me feel old, soon I’ll be commenting on good cake, moaning about the weather & buying sensible sweaters (oh wait)

So 2013 what’s happened? Well a trip to the Cotswolds, a lovely stay at Brook Farm in Berrington, a weekend in Paris (although later than originally planned) a few lovely stays at Hopton House, a brilliant week dog sitting the charismatic Archie, a lovely day fruit picking at Neen Sollars (followed by an amazing ride out in a horse drawn buggy) a whole lot of coffee drinking & cake eating with chums & most recently a weekend in the Shadow of The Black Mountains.

So I guess 2013 has been spent eating, drinking, catching up with friends, cozying in front of log burners & walking canine companions!

Oh and bottling fruit gins, making Jam, baking, cooking & introducing Alex to wonderful foods such as Toad in The Hole!

I aimed to write a post a month but maybe that’ll be 2014’s challenge! Until then I guess it will be sporadic brief glimpses into what I’ve been up to!

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As brief as an Autumn leaf

We returned from Paris, our relationship stronger & our love a little bit more cemented! We returned after days of strolling the avenues, the parks & streets but we returned to Autumn my favourite season.

The leaves are changing & our appetites are now craving warm suppers that warm you from the inside out. My t shirts are now packed away and are replaced by my winter cable knit jumpers, our walks along the river and pints in waterside pubs are replaced by films and glasses filled with red wine.

A brief blog piece but the first of my Autumnal thoughts

You will always find me in the kitchen! Full Stop

This last week has been almost perfect! I’ve been off of work and the news from my specialist with regards to the ‘lump’ was good. But what has made it more enjoyable is that I have been able to relax and potter in the kitchen.

I love cooking and I love to be in the kitchen, I was bought up believing the kitchen was the heart of the house, it made the house a home, as a youngster I would always be sat at the kitchen table either reading or doing my homework instead of in front of the TV.

Being off this last week though has been a blessing as it has been a Holy Week for the Greek Orthodox Church, which brings with it some dietary restrictions for all those who practice the religion. I was unaware of this until one evening we were discussing future dining plans. The restrictions were that a Vegan diet (with some exceptions such as honey or shellfish) was to be followed and no oil or alcohol was to be consumed on Wednesday or Friday. There were other practices such as Red Eggs and baking of bread to celebrate Easter Sunday.

So I set about planning the weeks dinners but what I found more pleasurable was planning the breakfasts, gone out of the window were the usual crumpets and muffins smothered in butter and instead it was platters of fruit, I also baked loaves of bread to eat with honey and we drank fruit herbal teas instead of mugs of builders tea with lashings of milk poured in!

Breakfast

Dinners were freshly made vegetable soups, or dry roasted vegetables mixed through freshly made pastas! All a pleasure to create as much as to eat.

This rekindling of my love affair with the kitchen has continued into the weekend , I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening party of The Brompton Cookery School, now who would turn down an opportunity to taste some amazing food & of course to finally meet the lovely and fairly famous chef Marcus Bean!

Marcus Bean

The teaching kitchen was an amazing space and although filled with people on this occasion was still lovely & bright! The food was amazing and of course the fizz free flowing! And even through well fed & watered eyes I looked forward to planning what cookery course to undertake!

Brompton Cookery School Opening Party

And now Sunday is here and I’m sat in the kitchen of Hopton House Bed & Breakfast, a cup of tea made from the kettle on the Aga & a slice of homemade cake! Bliss

Like the song says ‘You’ll always find me in the kitchen’

http://www.shropshirebreakfast.co.uk/

http://www.bromptoncookeryschool.co.uk/

Order in the house

Now I’m not a worrier, nor a person that panics! In the words of the iconic Doris Day “Que Sera Sera” but a routine visit to see the GP meant that a lump on my leg was to be investigated and to quote my rather lovely GP “Whipped Out” I was assured that there was no need for alarm nor panic, and in fact the only thing that I have worried about so far is having to move my Paris Trip.

But it did get me to thinking that I should maybe have some things in place, just in case.

So Sunday night after a lovely weekend spent with many different friends I sat on the sofa and started to take stock and make plans for the future. I don’t have wish to burden the new chap with these things so I started by making lists, which soon gave way to writing letters and cards for my friends and for my family. They mainly covered the same ground and used the often forgotten phrase of “how proud I am of everything you do” and “how much I love you” the letters once written made way to making arrangements for Flo and also the writing down of what I would wanted at a funeral, I sadly am no longer a Christian my faith destroyed by the bitter views of current church leaders so the service would be not quite a  Humanist but a long those lines. I would of course want the whole event Tweeted about that should satisfy my Twitter addiction.

I know that my brother won’t need to open the box labelled just in case but its there!!

A companion piece

This blog piece contains swearing!!! You have been warned!!

My Gran raised me to be a respectful man, to be honest & kind but she also ensured that I knew about life, that I knew the real hardships!

To picture her think of Miss Marple, add a glass of Gin & a razor sharp tongue! When I broke up with Matthew she kindly wrapped & gave me a copy of Delia’s “One is Fun” – her reasoning was that to get & retain a man you had to be able to cook, after all the way to a mans heart is through his stomach.

She was a woman who stood no fools, enjoyed liquor & was thrilled for an excuse to wear her fur coat but her pearls of wisdom were always modern & sometimes shocking; One of her other gems of wisdom was

“To get over someone, you needed to get under someone”

it became known in family law as the Rebound! Various rules came into play about the rebound, never fall for them, dump them before they get too attached, there were of course other heartless methods and means for the Farrington Family to get back into a relationship that was deemed acceptable.

So I find myself in rebound territory, I’m cooking, I’m curling up on the sofa of an evening & holding hands & enjoying the kind of kisses that make your spine tingle & your knees tremble.

But I won’t be ending it, I don’t want too! I like the companionship, I like the drunken fooling around & I enjoy the waking up in a morning with a hand firmly grasping mine

I know I’m breaking every rule that my cousins & I spent Summers making up but I’ll see what happens I think I’ll follow another piece of advice bestowed to me one summers evening whilst pouring my Gran a Gin and that was “fuck it all lovely boy, rules are just rules, just be happy”

Thrift Radiates Happiness

When I was first told about the art instillation Thrift Radiates Happiness I will confess that I didn’t pay much attention. As usual my mind would have been on other things such as cake or such other nonsense. But upon meeting my friend Pam for coffee and hearing her rave reviews not only of the wonderful and creative ideas but also of the space that the instillation was in I set my mind for a day trip to Birmingham to see for myself.

I arrived in the city on St Patricks Day and managed to avoid the throngs of rather merry people and found myself on Broad Street, looking at a rather small building that was once the Municipal Bank of Birmingham. Obviously a once grand entrance to Broad Street now it stood rather over shadowed by the giant towers of the Hyatt and the Atkins building.

Birmingham Municipal Bank

Upon entry to the bank the first thing that struck you was the decayed grandeur of a building that once was obviously a hive of business and commerce. I was greeted by a very friendly and helpful lady who pointed out the instillations and explained about what was available to see. So I pushed the wonderful wooden revolving door and entered a rather breath taking space.

IMG_1728The floor was parquet and the high ceiling was tiled and across the two major beams the phases: “Thrift Radiates Happiness” and “Saving is the Mother of Riches” looked down on the now empty space, the first installation but the last one I investigated was housed in this empty hallway.

Thrift Radiates Happiness

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I explored the room, taking as many photo’s as I could and inquisitively looked at the works that were housed in the former bank offices and then started the descent into the basement of the bank, heading along the corridors slightly spooked by the convex mirrors at each corner to allow you to see people coming towards you but not your own reflection towards the bank vaults.

Mirror Corridor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been about 30 years since I had last entered a bank vault and that had been with my Grandma, I remember her dressed in a tweed, twin set and me having to stand very still whilst she opened this magical box with her key, to this day I don’t know what was so important that it was deposited within the bank and why it was not kept at home but I do know that being in the vault of the bank in Birmingham bought back many memories.

Once down at the vault you were offered the chance to invest and £2 gave you a safety deposit number and upon entry to the vault you were to find the corresponding box, open it and you were rewarded by a piece of artwork to commemorate the event, I invested £4 and was given 2 boxes to find.

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The art instillations were amazing from video pieces to popcorn makers set to produce popcorn as a symbolisation of the major financial crisis of the last century – I was informed that at the end of the day the machines were producing a lot of popcorn as the later in the day it got the more recent the financial crises.

But my favourite piece was by Elly Clake called Half Crowns in their Petticoats, which was an audio piece; it was a series of interviews that had been given by former employees of the bank many of which had been recorded on site at the bank. It was a wonderful opportunity to listen to stories of people who had once busied themselves within the now empty building. I sat and listened for 50 minutes ensuring I had taken in each story and every tale that was offered.

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It really was an amazing opportunity to visit an amazing venue let alone see & hear some amazing pieces of art pieces and left you longing for days when banks promoted thrift and not credit!