Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday 30 August - Our excellent new local, Ravensbourne Arms

Current location: Lewisham
11.11pm, Washing up after a late Mexican dinner. Earlier in the night, Andy and I had gone out to buy food and stumbled across a new-ish pub near our house, Ravensbourne Arms. Oh my. It's excellent. Think board games, lots of comfy chairs, books, ping pong, Doom Bar on tap... Oh, and a deer in a do-rag of course. I think we're going to become regulars pretty quickly...

Monday 29 August - The dam days are over

Current location: Amsterdam
11.11am, Reading in Col's amazing flat. Him and Andy had some work to do so we had a quiet morning, and then went out in the afternoon in search of a windmill. Luckily, the one we found was also a brewery, so we were kept well-entertained for the next few hours before I had to get on my flight home. An amazing holiday in such a pretty part of the world, I hope it's not too long before we come back.

Sunday 28 August - More of the dam

Current location: Amsterdam
11.11pm, Walking home from the red-light district. Though we haven't done too many touristy things here (no coffee shoes, clogs or tulips), we did take a wander through the red-light district... It wasn't as seedy as I imagined, but was still pretty full-on.

Earlier in the day we had AMAZING tapas (seriously, maybe the best tapas I've ever tasted), near Col's house. We'd taken a long walk around the city, punctuated by various stops in cafes. One was so good that we stopped for a few hours to play scrabble and enjoy the loveliness. Such a chilled-out city, but with so much to offer. I love it here.

Saturday 27 August - Amsterdam: City of loveliness

Current location: Amsterdam
11.11pm, Eating dinner in Amsterdam! Andy and I came over last night to visit our friend, Colin, (aka the world's most handsome man)... It's been a good few months since we've seen him so we were pretty excited to catch up, and he immediately proved himself to be a good host. When we arrived, the city's bars were beckoning. So we went out for 'a quick drink', which turned into rums, vodkas and whiskeys in some of the city's coolest bars, ending at 5am with a transatlantic phone call and lots of laughter...

...Which turned this morning into a bit of a write-off. But with a hearty lunch inside us, we set off to explore the city is all its rainy glory. The drizzle (and torrential downpours) hampered our cycling plans somewhat, so we bar-hopped and sightsaw and visited markets and tried some of the city's delicacies instead (my favourite being 'Bitterballen' - a mystery meat snack).

Next we headed to a sneaker convention...lots and lots of shoes and lots of cool people wearing them, and met some of Col's friends, including the lovely Laura, whose birthday it was. With a quick stop at home to refresh and refuel, we all met up a couple of hours later at a fab restaurant for Laura's birthday. With the wine flowing and the huge amounts of food to be eaten, we really felt like we were on holiday! Colin's friends were so lovely and funny, and we all carried on the celebrations at a bar where you throw peanut shells on the floor. Strange but true. Pretty big fan of my first day (and nights) in the Dam.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wednesday 24 August - The best book club!

Current location: Lewisham
11.11pm, Walking in my door. I had just (literally, at 11.11pm) got back from Angel, where I had been for book club. I bloody love my book club. It's made up of a fluctuating number of friends – between between five and eight of us – that all met on our Master's course about three years ago. I love these girls very much, and I am so proud of what they have all done and where their careers have taken them since we graduated.

Not only awesome in their careers, however, these girls are awesome in general life. We've been meeting up for dinner/wine/overly loud conversations about once month, but found we would often spend a lot of our time talking about books. So we formed a book club.

Now, though, we spend a lot of our book club talking about general life. Well, I say general life, but actually, tonight we covered strippers, poo and fake babies... Anyway, long live book club - I love it!

Tuesday 23 August - Midweek Maden

Current location: Brixton
11.11pm, Drinking red wine with three lovelies. Both Andy and I had had frustrating, rubbish days, for various reasons, but the day definitely got better when we reached Sara Maden's house. After we had dinner with her and Paul, we chatted, played Boggle (my fave) and debated the rioters. An easy, fun, stress-relieving night that makes me happy to live near my lovely friends.

(Pictures taken last year of us leap-frogging in the park near Sara's house. Clearly, one of us is better at leap-frogging than the other. And it's not me.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Saturday 20 August - A day at the seaside

Current location: Brighton
11.11am, Reading by the window. After a lazy morning, we headed over to the beach, where we set up camp for the afternoon. Deckchairs? Check. Sunnies? Check. Beach snacks? Check. Sunshine? Check.

What a beautiful and relaxing day, reading, listening to music, chatting, swimming in the sea and soaking up the sunshine. Returning home only to get changed and dump the deckchairs, we then walked along the promenade and got fish and chips, admiring the amazing sunset. We were like proper tourists, and I couldn't have been happier.

Tuesday 16 August - Colourful dinner

Current location: Angel
11.11pm, Playing Taboo with Nicky, Eve, Andy and Harry. We went to Nicky's house in Angel and Eve cooked us all goats' cheese salad - twas speedy, scrummy and oh-so-colourful. Nice work Evie. She was my Taboo teammate too, and I was pretty pleased with our performance. Bi-winning.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday 14 August - Cycling - at last!

Location: Lewisham
11.11am, Er...helping Andy fix my bike. Which really means, watching Andy fix my bike. Back in May, I bought a new bike and, somehow, it has developed a puncture even though it hasn't left our back garden! But Andy sorted it out for me and, finally, we went on a little ride to Greenwich, where we sat in the park in the sunshine, drank smoothies and caught up with friends from Austria who are visiting London. There's always so much to do in London, and so many people do it with, but I love that you can combine socialising with a nice chilled-out activity like hanging in the park and cycling home.

Saturday 13 August - Hoxton happenings

Current location: Hoxton
11.11pm, Eating Vietnamese food in Hoxton. Andy and I had been watching the bodyboarding championships, as a few of Andy's friends were in it - one even made it to the final! We then made an impromptu decision to head to east London, where our friends were watching the final together at our friend Gav's house Hoxton. A train, a tube, a beer and a jog later and we were there, in time to watch their friend, Ryan Hardy, take a very awesome second place. Second in the world, not bad!

It was also our lovely friend Sarah's birthday so we all sat out on Gav's roof garden, chatted, took photos, ate cake and enjoyed a balmy evening in each other's company, before heading out for some Vietnamese food. Lovely London friends.

Friday 12 August - Hooray it's Friday!

Current location: Lewisham
11.11pm, Sitting on the floor in the lounge, eating takeaway curry and playing Trivial Pursuit. I went for some obligatory (and very lovely) drinks after work and enjoyed letting my hair down with work peeps after what has been a pretty hectic fortnight.

When I left to come home and hang out with Andy, I walked through Trafalgar Square and, once again, thought how awesome it is that I get to walk through here twice a day. It's always packed with hundreds of people, taking photos, looking at the entertainers and soaking up the atmosphere of London.

Monday 8 August – London riots

Current location: Lewisham
11.11pm, In bed with a glass of wine watching BBC News 24. Over the weekend, riots broke out in Tottenham, after a peaceful protest got out of hand. By tonight, the riots had spread to Hackney, Lewisham and Peckham, among other areas.

On finishing work today, I heard that there was some trouble in Lewisham. There was a strange atmosphere on the train and, by the time I got off the train, Lewisham town centre had already been closed off and there were heaps of riot police. I went home a different way and then watched on News 24 as the smashing of shop windows etc moved further up the high street towards where I live. It wasn't so much scary, as sad, but thankfully there wasn't much looting. A few cars were set on fire and some shop windows were smashed, but I think Lewisham got off lightly compared to some of the other areas of London.

So much has been written and said about these riots already, and it will take a lot of time until the reasons that this happened are addressed, but it's been heart-warming to see people group together and try and clean up and help those most affected. I hope some good comes from this...

Image of riot police in Lewisham © Stuart Bannocks

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saturday 6 August - Right on, Brighton!

Current location: Brighton
11.11pm, In the Brighton flat, watching TV, drinking wine and snacking on after-dinner treats. I have had the most amazing day today. Andy and I decided to come down to Brighton for the weekend and actually hang out with each other (we've both been so busy/all over the place recently) and, handily, Mum and Dad have a beautiful flat here, right on the seaside. The pictures above are taken from the flat window, so you can see how close we are.

After a lazy morning of sleeping in, reading and walking, Andy and I met my work friend, Harry and his lovely girlfriend and gorgeous son. We had a coffee and a chat, and then Andy and I decided to go for a run.

It was so gorgeous running along the seafront in the sunshine, and it was pretty warm too. So warm, in fact, that at the end of our run, we ran straight into the sea, in our running stuff. The water was refreshing and wavy and so fun - I felt so exhilarated and full of energy and excitement and vigour! What an amazing day; it's nice to get out of the city sometimes, and today was so good for the soul.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wednesday 3 August - A chef in training?

Current location: Hoxton
11.11pm, Eating an awesome dinner that I had cooked. Andy and I had such a fun night, where we had a cookery lesson from a TV chef, Patrice Yango (food consultant on Ready, Steady, Cook, don't you know?!). There were 18 of us learning how to make an awesome two-course meal, which we then got to enjoy in a really gorgeous restaurant.

We made:
Fresh roasted goat cheese Provencal Pissaladiere
Main course
Chicken Ballotine, Sun blushed tomato and basil with warm Vegetable Nicoise

...Both of which were pretty delish and not too hard to master. The evening was set up by Love2Experience, a new company that is combining fun experiences with dating. Yes, it was supposed to be a singles' night, but Andy and I magically hit it off as soon as we met in the kitchen, were paired up, and the rest is history...

Seriously though, I would HUGELY recommend doing something like this (they're not all singles' events) - they often have deals on Groupon etc, so for the cost of going out for dinner, you actually get a really memorable, fun night of learning new cookery skills, meeting ace people and seeing (well, eating) the fruits of your labour.

NB: Andy took some ace photos on the night, alongside being my sous chef, so I will update the images once I have them...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thursday 28 July - A Finsbury Park fiesta!

Current location: Lewisham
11.11pm, Playing Trivial Pursuit with Andy and his parents after just getting home from Finsbury Park. It was Catdog's actual birthday today (although we part-celebrated on Saturday) so we went for a gorgeous and fancy meal in a restaurant called Season in Finsbury Park. I'd really recommend it; the food was delicious and it's a pretty cool place to sit and drink wine it too. We were missing Sara Maden but the rest of us uni girls were there, and I just love it when we meet up. Guaranteed good times.