Saturday, 28 March 2015

Guy Bourdin - Walking Legs

A major holiday and for the first time since arriving in London, I am not escaping the city! While part of me is definitely pining after last year's Easter break spent cruising, I'm also very excited to be spending some downtime here! 

The weekly grind is hardly conducive to truly appreciating London. With warmer weather comes opportunity to extend days into the evenings and venture beyond the realms of the Seven Sisters - Highbury & Islington - Hoxton and back again commute. However, a long winter preceded by a less-than-inspiring summer (at least in terms of the weather) has found me on the brink of falling out of love.

Enter the Easter Holiday! I honestly don't think it could have come at a better time. The days ahead of me are currently empty besides for time made for loved ones, and I intend to fill some with more of those, some with days to myself and I guess a couple (but hopefully not many more) with work.

The Easter holiday is my favourite. For one, it always falls around my birthday (or my birthday falls around it; not entirely sure which) which is obviously incredibly important! But perhaps more importantly, after how crammed Christmas becomes (predominantly crammed in terms of time and my stomach), and how like a flash half terms pass by, Easter is the first real chance to rest! Often the weather becomes warmer too, so here's hoping for at least some sun!

One day in and I'd like to think I've already got the holiday off to a good start; I'm ever so impressed with myself. Somehow I was out of bed before 9 so I decided I had plenty of time to vacate the flat for a morning and head to an art exhibition I've been meaning to go to since it opened! Today was the final day of said exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, so I made it just in time! I've missed a few great-looking exhibitions (I feel like I've used that word about a million times now!) lately so I didn't want to let another pass me by. I'm not usually someone who can be found in a gallery, but I'd seen a photograph from the collection somewhere (I think it's likely it was in Vogue) and I just loved the concept and wanted to see more for myself!

Guy Bourdin's Walking Legs 'was shot in 1979 using quintessentially English landscapes [for a] backdrop'. The locations for the photographs were happened upon on a road trip taken from London to Brighton in a Cadillac. Despite the time difference, many of the scenes remain the same today which I think is why I really loved the collection, because I could imagine walking through them myself. The mannequin's legs are adorned with Charles Jourdan's shoe designs (the two were introduced through editor of French Vogue) as the photographs were taken for his high-end advertising campaign.

As well as Guy Bourdin's collection, I enjoyed Noé Sendas' The Lady Vanishes and Samantha Roddick's Hidden Within, a collection of Carlo Mollino's polaroids mounted on the most lavish backdrops made of ruby red and sapphire blue velvet embellished with metallic threads. Second to the Walking Legs, my favourite thing about this morning was that I was completely alone in the gallery. The peace, quiet and stillness was so foreign to me in London but it was magical and I could have basked in it forever!

Noé Sendas - The Lady Vanishes

Samantha Roddick - Hidden Within

Back on the Underground without a seat, the contrast was a bit of a shock to the system! The rest of the day has then been spent preparing for the excitement tomorrow brings when my parents descend... Lots planned for Sunday & Monday, then we'll just have to wait and see what the rest of the fortnight has to offer!

Happy Easter, all!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Soft drinking in London

In 23 days, my dry spell ends and the heavens will open (actually they probably won't because I've realised that I absolutely do not miss hangovers, and have also happened upon some pretty tasty mocktails so I imagine my drinking may continue in a less dramatic way than I've just made it sound...)

Anyway, the reason I write is two-fold. As I say, I have discovered some great alcohol alternatives since this January, but I have also noticed a distinct lack of my type of bars in London.

When I say 'my type of bars', I refer to favourite Norwich haunts such as The Workshop, House Café, Franks Bar and The Bicycle Shop, where hot drinks machines are not turned off after a certain time and only alcohol is on offer. These café-bars not only have a huge variety of tea on offer all through the day and night but they also provide games to play and the music in the background keeps the mood alive no matter whether one is intoxicated or not!

The most amazing breakfast at House Café over Valentines weekend

Now I'm not saying nowhere like this exists in London, but sadly it's certainly not the norm, and reaching these 'unique' places involves travelling far and wide! So, I write to sing the praises of those establishments that have kept me very happy over the course of the past two months, but also expect that I may continue searching in this final stretch, so continue writing too!

I take you back to January now, when it all began for the second time. I've honestly hardly noticed I've not been drinking this time. I do remember struggling last year, so in comparison this year (so far) has been a breeze! One downside however has been the fact that not drinking definitely has not saved me money. I seem to have replaced going out for drinks with going out for food; good job I noticed so this month I should finally be able to save some money!

Anyway, in early January I found myself at the BFI bar on the Southbank. I've actually frequented the bar on several occasions, but most often for alcoholic beverages. However on this occasion I discovered that they have a very interesting tea selection. Feeling a little under the weather (as seems to be a running theme), I went for an Elderflower & ginger or something similar (quite honestly it was a while ago now, but I know it was tasty and good for a cold)! The BFI boasts a good selection of drinks, great cake (I had lemon & lavender to be precise) and incredibly comfy sofas!

Lately I seem to have found myself wandering along The Kings Road quite often since being delighted to discover that it is actually not ever so far away from home! One particular day began at the Chelsea Physic Garden where we admired snowdrops (I particularly adored those hanging in moss balls)! Left with freezing cold toes, we of course had to take shelter in a pub, so we found ourselves in the The Trafalgar which I loved because it was so quirky and we happened to be there for an evening of jazz too! On this occasion I can't actually remember what I drank but Sunday roast was very tasty and I loved the decor so we'll definitely be going back!

A cosy greenhouse at Chelsea Physic Garden

One of my favourite places to eat and drink lies just outside Liverpool St Station. First discovered between night buses on a very cold night, the Polo Bar is open 24 hours! Serving the most yummy breakfast items and tasty pastries it's the perfect stop-off at any time of day, whether you are in search of tea to begin winding down or something a little stronger to keep you going. All really reasonably priced as well which is a big plus in Central London!

Throwing caution to the wind, I have recently discovered my passion for milkshakes. Love Shack on Kingsland Road is one of my favourite places to go, but when told upon my arrival there one evening that they had run out of milk (!?), they directed us further along to The Diner, where we were more than satisfied by their incredible selection of both hard and soft shakes! We are definitely returning for a day of food; breakfast, lunch and tea!

During the Half Term, I was lucky enough to meet up with friends from my PGCE. We spent the afternoon around London Bridge and ventured down Bermondsey Street, a street that I have only ended up along if lost, in which case I have usually turned around and gone back the way I came. However, we happened upon a very intriguing pub (Tanner & Co) serving pancakes (as it was Shrove Tuesday, a pancake menu was priority for me) so we decided to stop for lunch. Service was incredibly slow and we waited almost an hour for food (I think judging by the tables scattered with empties and crumbs, we had just missed a very busy lunch hour and the waiting staff had decided to go on an exhaustion strike), but once it arrived we had no complaints, and as a result of the poor service we received our post-food hot drinks free. The tea selection was great and the old PE equipment reminscent of our childhood that provided the decor was, as I say, intriguing. I'll definitely go back again, but perhaps not on an empty stomach!

(Photo credit: Crazy Cow events)

I wrote recently about a gig I went to where Iyes performed in a really intimate venue. The venue was Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, and the pre-gig food and drink was a great way to start the evening! I arrived a good half an hour before my friend was due, so ordered an Earl Grey at the bar while I waited. When she arrived we ordered chicken burgers which were ideal to tide us over as we waited a couple of hours for the headliners to perform. Despite having visited less than a week earlier, we actually ended up at The Diner for milkshakes on this occasion too as we had not realised just how late the gig was starting! When it did eventually begin, we watched with the most satisfied tummies!

I have frequented House of Vans quite a bit since it opened last year, and in doing so always stop to admire the graffiti below the arches on Leake Street. Nevertheless, I did not know it was Leake Street I was admiring until a friend invited me to go there for a look around. Of course I agreed (I'm always keen to venture to unfamiliar pastures), so we spent an afternoon around Waterloo; first wandering along Leake Street, then having a nosy in The Vaults before zig-zagging along Lower Marsh as we went in and out of shops luring us in with their vintage, food and general eccentricity. Having enjoyed myself so much, I then invited another friend to come with me the following weekend. This time we stopped for a while inside The Vaults which played host to the best selection of tea I have seen in a long time. Sitting in low deckchairs listening to the most eclectic playlist whilst sipping honey & herb tea; pure bliss.

So the search continues for tea (and/or alcohol for those that way inclined) and games. I'm pretty happy to have found so many places to suit my needs in the meantime though, and worst comes to worst, I'll just stay at home and half tea-for-one from my oversized teapot!

Smoky Russian Caravan from Wilkinsons of Norwich

Can't beat a good mug of Lavender Earl Grey. Wins every time!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My happy place[s]

I miss the sky.
I miss fresh air.
I miss aimless wanderings, a leisurely pace, strolling.
I miss space, time, safety and security.

Sand between my toes.
Sun in my eyes.
Mud. Everywhere.

London is magical in its own kind of way, but I'm definitely incredibly homesick at the moment.

The winter has been a hard one. Never before have I found myself wanting to hibernate LITERALLY ALL THE TIME. Yet this year I have become the biggest fan of the indoors; primarily the biggest fan of my bed (luckiest piece of furniture alive... ahem).

Somehow I have found myself swerving between weekends spent working far harder than I like to, or those spent cramming in as many social activities as I possibly can in a desperate attempt to pick myself up from my slump.

I don't know though. The fact that I haven't felt inspired to write lately, despite several weekends full of beauty, has been playing on my mind. As I wandered along to choir rehearsal this evening (the most welcome almost-mid-week slice of respite), I suddenly found words filling my head. And although they weren't the words I was expecting, I thought I'd go with it. So here I am, possibly about to have my first small moan about living in London.

Those rare, sunny days are best spent admiring the patterns the blinds make.

Finished one book...

... sort of started another.

Trying to make 'art' out of my lesson planning.

Days at home are best spent drinking endless cups of tea.

The most photogenic blinds?

I adore it. I really do! But I think when I look ahead to a move in the future (moving into another property, not moving out of London; despite everything, I see myself here for the foreseeable future. Completely) I decided this weekend that I need to be within reasonable walking distance to a green space.

Dog-walks have proved to be a lot more pleasurable than I could have ever imagined!

In the summer, I'd consider myself to be perfectly positioned when it comes to green spaces. There's Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Abney Park Cemetery, Markfield Park, Downhills Park, to name a few! Yet in the winter when the cold is as bitter as it has been, even on a sunny day, these green spaces seem worlds away. So this weekend, I actually didn't even leave the flat, which would have previously been completely unheard of in my world!

I'm great at making the most of London, if money were no object. But in the winter months, I have not yet found the solution to winding down without spending, and with my New Year's Resolution not going all that badly at the moment, I'm trying to be stricter with myself this year! I'm also great at doing a lot (when I do let myself out, I sure make the most of it) but I can't seem to manage a day where I do some work, and some play.

A slightly over-extravagant day spent in Chelsea; admiring greenhouses at Chelsea Physic Garden

See in an ideal world, I could spend a Saturday doing a little work (like I'm probably supposed to), and then I could go for a leisurely stroll around 'the park' to break it up, or to energise myself first thing in the morning, or to wind down in the evening before eating myself into a sofa coma. Alas.

Half term is fast approaching (THREE SLEEPS), so I'm hoping that I might take a day or two to venture out into the big, wide world beyond my duvet (it does get as far as my sofa with me as well... apparently a very sorry sight) and have a go at unearthing some happy places for those weekends where I need to get out, but don't want to be out out!

I think the problem of late has been that I'm so familiar with what I've left behind in Norfolk, that my mind keeps taking me there. It's easy to think, 'oh, if I was in Norwich I could go for a walk around the lake', 'oh, if I was at home I could play piano for a while', and it is hard to draw parallels here. But ultimately this is still the very beginning of my London adventure. There is still so much to discover.

So, discover it I will.
Consider me on the search for my happy place[s].

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Almost 4 weeks into the new year and resolutions are going well; last night upon my return from choir I drank my Sleep Tea and read a chapter of my book and despite having a SEVEN WEEK stint between pay-days, I am somehow still clinging on to some funds! (Known to spend everything I have in the space of a week or two, believe me, 'clinging' is impressive)!

I've kept myself busy with little outings at the weekends, but have been careful not to over-do it so have had plenty of hibernation time as well!

However, perhaps not particularly restful was the weekend just gone which saw the arrival of my 'little' brother's 21st year (you know when your younger sibling reaches another milestone it just means you're moving ever closer to the next one yourself; scary!). On Friday night we headed to the first Liquicity event to reach London, and it was amazing!

I'm always a little nervous about going out on a Friday night having been up for so many hours beforehand! As such, I never expect to last beyond 1 or 2 and an additional hurdle by the name of 'Dry January' left me even less confident of my surviving than usual. Yet somehow I'm still here to tell the tale. (I had also been invited to join the birthday boy again the following night, but I think that might have been considered a little too wild in my 'old' age...)

On the other hand, Friday nights are actually the perfect time to go out as they mean two days of recovery and because the night is so far away from the morning, part of me always feels like it's another day in itself (just me?) and so extends my weekend; who's complaining?

I was good to myself and had a small 'lie-in' (I believe my alarm went off at quarter past 6 instead of quarter to) on the Friday morning, hoping that I'd feel super refreshed and ready to go!

A good day had at school (finally, they're settling back into routine!), my female companion (ok, that sounds dodgy, but I needed someone to keep me company otherwise it would have just been me amongst a group of boys. Ew.) arrived in plenty of time for girly chats, catch ups, cups of coffee and pizza before the birthday boy descended upon us. I felt ready!

The last Liquicity event the boys had been to was in Belgium, and all being HUGE fans of Belgian crowds, we weren't really sure what to expect from the Brits. Stood in the queue to get into Village Underground we overheard one [gentle]man exclaim that he was 'giddy with excitement', which I think was possibly the complete opposite extreme to what we were expecting at such an event in England! Having ripped said guy and his group of friends, he ended up losing them and spent his night desperately trying to mirror my brother's friend's expert dancing skills (too funny to watch). He sure was giddy, but he wasn't such a bad guy!

6 solid hours of dancing to Rameses B, Hugh Hardie, Fliwo, Champion & Maduk, with the occasional trip to the bar for water to re-fuel, my abs were ACHING the morning after (and even the morning after that actually - I should go dancing more often)! Village Underground was an incredible venue (mental note made), the crowd were generally pretty fun (you can tell we're starting to move in the same circles because there were even some familiar faces from the Med School night!) and most importantly my brother had an awesome night and I was in bed before 6am; a result for all I reckon!

Definitely be making an appearance again if Liquicity returns to London... I might even make my brother and his friends take me with them next time they head off to the continent!

(Photos stolen from Liquicity Facebook & Twitter pages. I was far too busy bouncing up, down and all around to take a decent picture!):
Photograph by Aron Klein for Here & Now - Facebook
Photograph by Aron Klein for Here & Now - Facebook

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Welcome, 2015

It's been a long time since my last post; I must have got lost somewhere amongst the madness that is the month of December!

While part of me is convinced that all events that occured would totally fit into one post, the other (more sensible and logical) part says 'move on, Laura'... so, whizzing past a Selfridges cinema experience (Paddington was AMAZING), decorating the Christmas tree (and the rest of the flat), a concert in Boughton not Broughton, carol singing on a floating jetty at St Katharine Docks, Christmas Jumper Day, elbowing our way through throngs of tourists to that infamous ice slide at Winter Wonderland where we also drank yummy hot Rekorderlig, take-away afternoon tea and Christmas trees galore at Columbia Road Flower Market, 'merryment' at St Martin-in-the-Fields, the school nativity, tending the bar at the City Chamber Choir concert, and finally heading home for Christmas where we'll pretend everything calmed down before this list burns a hole in the page!

Home was glorious as always - just look at beautiful Norfolk!

So we reach that time again, a new year has begun! After a party torn between adulthood and our teens to see it in, we have just returned from a bracing walk along the canal and finally, the world has come to rest, just for the remainder of today but it's enough.

People keep asking me what my new year's resolutions are, but unlike last year (and I think even the year before), I have a much less clear idea than usual. I think maybe because as 2014 drew to a close, I felt more content than I have done in a long time; those small fragments of life forever floating around without a true sense of where to go have finally found direction!

'Do more of the same' would be far too boring for me though, so this post may rest a while to give me time to formulate a plan!

I have embarked on Dry January again with a view to keep going until March (having succeeded last year, I dare to actually go public with my intention this year; too much confidence?), but I'm not sure that can constitute any sort of 'resolution', particularly as it won't last the full length of 2015 (the summer of 2014 taught me that)!

With a little time passed, I hope I have decided on three achievable resolutions for this year...

1. Read!

I'm preferably a writer, not a reader. But I love to lose myself in a book when the mood takes me, and with a lack of internet connection on my laptop preventing me from losing myself in iPlayer or Netflix instead, now is the perfect opportunity to set the ball rolling (and a book even awaits me on the pillow beside me for when I've finished writing)!

2. Look after myself. Rest.

This is something I've always prided myself in being good at, but I seem to have let it slip again this academic year, resulting in a 12-week-long cold. Finally rid of it, I'm determined to keep illness and fatigue at bay... wish me luck and expect far too many cat posts thanks to more weekends spent at home.

3. Set goals for money saving.

I'm ashamed to have two resolutions that I'm almost entirely sure I've had before, but I hope I've at least re-phrased them? I am and always will be a lover of spending, but I really need to prioritise where my money goes. Having had a wardrobe clearout at the weekend, clothes shopping is a looming temptation, but instead a new bed is top of my list, which I figure links nicely to resolution number 2? Already got my Sleep Tea for Christmas, now I just need somewhere as comfortable as my bed at home to lay my weary head!

I'm really very excited for 2015 because I came out of 2014 so happy and feeling very accomplished (not entirely sure why, but hey, I'll go with it) and I can only imagine that much more of the same is in store! 2015, let's do this!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

One woman's struggle with a train window

'Escaped to the country' for a spot of Christmas shopping when the mere thought of attempting it in London gave me severe palpatations.

I haven't visited Cambridge in such a long time, and I missed it. Just under 50 minutes on the train (and only 20 from my front door - train (I timed it, because I was late as ever)), I figured I could spend just as long travelling to various shopping areas in the capital, so a spontaneous decision was made!

Even more spontaneously, I text mother on the off chance that her and dad weren't already headed for an incredibly busy weekend, only to discover that their Saturday was also clear of any social events, so we arranged to meet!

After my panicking that I was going to be the last person to set foot on the train, probably as the doors were closing, despite waking at an unearthly time on a Saturday, I actually made it in good enough time to walk allll the way to the front so that I'd have less walking to do at the other end (genius).

The journey was beautiful; forgotten music from the depths of my SoundCloud in my ears, magical colours in the sky and a distant mist making for a very pretty vista. Directly opposite me sat a woman beneath an open window which shewas trying desperately to close to no avail, to my left (I sit sideways on trains; naughty) two suited men discussing photo shoots and football, and on the 4 seats in front of me, a middle aged lady with a foul mouth and a lacy jumper I'd probably wear too if I were 20 years older.

I arrived only fifteen minutes later than mum and dad, but already they had gone ahead and found a place for a hot drink. So I joined them, and we said our hellos, caught up on important events from the past week or so, and decided on a plan of action for the day!

Admittedly, on my last Christmas shopping excursion, I left feeling a strong sense of alliance to Norwich. I feel as if I might have actually written about it a year or two ago! I decided that Cambridge did not feel quite as festive as it should, and that the lack of independent shops made finding small and unique gifts quite difficult. 

Nevertheless, it felt so good to be back in the city; it's definitely still one of my favourites, at any time of year! I walked through all the little back-streets to meet mum and dad, admiring unusual door knockers along the rows and rows of cute terraced houses. No twinkling lights on trees in windows yet, but a wintry chill in the air still had me feeling festive.

A second mug of Earl Grey to kick-start me again after my early start and hypnotic train journey, and we were off! One thing Cambridge certainly is equipped with is an abundance of Charity shops. So while mum and I were actually managing a 'sweep browse' of Primark, dad was browsing in charity shops along the road. When we reconvened, he produced a Moomin book to add to the collection; I do adore Tove Jansson! This might even mean I actually get around to doing some reading over Christmas (I doubt I'll get beyond children's literature, but it's a start at least?)!

It's not usually necessary to spend much time at the Grafton Centre end of Cambridge, but we lost ourselves in Hawkin's Bazaar for a good amount of time; me dropping almost everything I touched, mum making cringe-worthy jokes about her purchases to the shop assistant and dad trying his hardest to pretend he wasn't with us (not really, we're all as bad as each other)! Playtime over, we popped in and out of a few more shops via biscotti and olive tasting before making our way to the city centre.

One huge advantage Cambridge does have over Norwich is Fopp. Fopp! I love Fopp! In fact, I could spend a lifetime in Fopp. On this occasion I had a time restriction in the form of our lunchtime reservation, but I still managed to make three film purchases. A notorious film novice, I have recently been expanding my film horizons, and Fopp is a place I like to buy the ones that jump off the shelf at me (sometimes literally) because they're often only £3, so even if I discover they're not for me, I've not even spent the price of a cinema ticket! Elf, I'm sure will be watched within a matter of days, but I think I'll save the other two for more dedicated film-watching time.

Once upon a time there was a Christmas hat impaled on that chimney.

Lunch was at Pizza Express, in the most fancy Pizza Express I have ever set foot in! Set in the historic building of Pitt Club, this restaurant did not even have signage outside, so it was very quiet indeed. There was no piped music, the floors were carpeted and books and black and white photographs of club members lined the wooden panelled walls. We all said as we sat there that we could quite easily forget where we were (and on a side note, the Christmas menu looks amazing)!

After lunch, we wandered along the most historic part of Cambridge, past the different college buildings which looked particularly glorious in the winter sun! Another point to Cambridge comes in the form of Heffer's bookshop, where mum and dad lost me in the children's section as I spent Christmas money on a plethora of picture books (perhaps for school, perhaps for my own reading pleasure).

We definitely picked the right end of the day to be in the area, as the setting sun behind the buildings made for a very beautiful skyline above the market. Before I knew it, it was time to head back. Of course we stopped for a final tea along the way, and to give me chance to sort my mass of shopping bags. Absolute saints that they are, my parents took most of my purchases home with them to avoid me having to take them on a million train journeys back and forth between Cambridge, London and Norfolk. So I left with two small bags; my DVDs, school milk bottles with paper straws for future cocktail drinking, my Moomin book and a Christmas present to pass along.

Despite knowing that I'll always see them again relatively soon, saying goodbye to my parents is always sad, and I don't know why but saying goodbye at train stations always seems that little bit more moving. Films have dictated that time will pass in slow motion, and tears will be shed (they weren't, but you get the scene I'm setting). A fond farewell said to Cambridge, mum and dad, I headed back to the Big Smoke for an evening in the cinema with my dear cousin; I just never stop!