Saturday, 23 April 2016

Crystal Palace

Today's dog walk took us to pastures new.

For a while now I've been wanting to explore Crystal Palace park (mostly to see the dinosaurs) but it always seems a bit too far. Thankfully, when already in the South and with a car to hand, it's not too far at all.

First impressions, it was pretty deserted which surprised us on a Saturday in Spring when the sun was trying to shine. The car-park we found was tiny and had plenty of empty spaces and there were very few people around. It did feel a bit sad.

From the car we initially climbed the steps that would have once led to the Crystal Palace itself. I had a moment akin to the one when I first travelled by Eurostar and was expecting to see underwater (please don't judge me, I was young) because for some reason the lack of palace was a surprise to me. I really don't know why I thought it was still standing.

At least literally a bit of it is, anyway (at least, presumably this is a bit of it?)

That disappointment out of the way, we followed the map's direction in pursuit of dinosaurs. Even on our short walk through the sports centre to the park, the area generally continued to feel sad and there were some seriously odd characters around (I hope that doesn't sound too rude). It all felt a bit run down and abandoned and just definitely not as busy as anywhere else probably was today!

However when we reached the park, things looked up. Plant life was pretty, there were winding paths and a pond (although the map claimed it was a lake - awh) and dinosaurs! Here there were a few others strolling and despite the fact that it was trying to rain by this point, we still had an incredibly pleasurable amble about.

My first experience of gorgeous Canada Geese goslings. So fluffy!

Having admired the dinosaurs, we walked around the boating lake and on to other points of interest on the map; a maze, more water and the 'English Landscape Garden'.

So the maze was either a terrible idea or one of our best. The entire experience was spent in a confused state of frustration, terror and thorough hilarity. Apparently dogs find mazes even more befuddling than humans do. Voices travelling through endless rows of hedge, paths going this way and that but never leading anywhere, even as an adult it turns out there's a great deal of challenge in navigation.

'Seriously guys? It really took us this long to find the escape?'

Somehow, and we really don't know how, we finally found the centre where we sat with a great sigh of relief. On our way back to the car we then passed what once was a concert venue with a small area of water in front, lots of blossom and greenery. We found ourselves again at the top of the steps we had climbed to begin with, although this time we encountered two Sphinx we had not seen before. Several attempted photo opportunities later, we headed back to shelter as it began to rain.

Crystal Palace verdict? I'm glad to have been and I bet the park is even prettier on a sunny day. I am, however, grateful that I've never made the epic journey from North to South London for a day of it as I'm not entirely sure it's an experience that would have satisfied me for one of my days of solo exploration. I really think, from somewhere, the whole place could really do with some serious TLC.

I feel like this crow sitting atop a crumbling statue pretty much sums it up.

Pretty views on the drive home...

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Taking great pleasure

Today I opened my diary to 'pencil [something] in', as they say, and I realised I actually hadn't written in it for a long time. Usually when this happens it means I've been rubbish at keeping on top of everything so I flicked back and forth through the pages to see what I'd missed, only to find that I'd just not used it in so long because I didn't need to! It felt pretty good when it dawned on me that I've obviously been doing such a good job of relaxing lately.

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium was worthy of breaking up the nothingness...

The final week of the Easter holiday was so empty it was almost a crime. But you know what? I was like a nesting bird which seems totally appropriate given the time of year and I took great pleasure in all the little things.This weekend I've mainly been at home again, catching up on school and uni work (although I'm having a break right now as my eyes can only read so many long words before they go all squiffy). The first week of the new half term was actually a little more than bearable and the sun has been shining lots which always does wonders for my mood.

It has felt a tiny bit sad that I've just been admiring sunshine from inside my bedroom today, particularly as it doesn't manage to shine through my window but I know that I'll more than more than make up for it when I can. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's appreciating all the little things around me. I'm in a very grateful mood today so I thought I'd share those things I've been taking simple pleasure in.

I take great pleasure in home comforts.

My birthday brought with it money to spend on dainty house-plants which look beautiful and bring the outside in even on those days when I can't really afford myself the time to leave the house. Another of my favourite things about home is the way the sun comes through the blinds in the living room, particularly if there's a cat curled up beside me and I've got candles or incense burning all around. If focus is required, I love how my bedroom becomes the perfect workspace despite a lack of desk; pillows propped up against the wall, my laptop upon a hat box, cup of tea on my bedside table, fairy-lights on, it's all very carefully thought out. And if in those squiffy-eyed moments I want to avoid the glare of a laptop screen I either escape to the sofa or the garden (weather depending) where I've been feeling really creative; drawing, colouring and reading the first of my birthday books.

I take great pleasure in discovery.

I've felt incredibly posh of late as for the past two Saturdays I've admired art whilst sipping Prosecco. Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the open studio of Anna Laurini whose 'faces' are cropping up all over the streets of London and beyond then last night was a late night event at the National Portrait Gallery for the Vogue 100 exhibition which was just stunning. Upon various weekend wanders I've also found a fair few new favourite pieces of street art. I must look bordering on crazed whenever I travel anywhere whether by foot, by bus or train as my eyes are always on the lookout for anything of interest be it colourful, pretty or with a message I like.

I take great pleasure in sunshine and longer days.

Basking in its heat has made lunchtimes this past week truly energising. I've even taken my cardigan off on occasion! Not only does it make me warm, it makes me smile and it makes the garden grow which is incredibly exciting. Some of our bulbs got a real shock when we had that tease of warm weather which suddenly took a turn for the worse but the ones that held on beneath the soil are now coming into their own. It's a real marvel to be able to open the door in the evenings upon my return home from school and to find some new change in the garden almost every day.

Spring, you've been wonderful so far!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Celebrating a Quarter of a Century

I'm still undeniably child-like when it comes to birthdays. So of course I woke up at stupid o'clock on mine, automatically full of birthday beans and eager to commence celebrations.

Presents were opened in bed with the best company and I even got a plate of cupcakes to enjoy (lemon & poppyseed complete with lemon curd filling) accompanied by a rendition of Happy Birthday to rival all others and two candles to blow out. The day made an excellent start!

It was gone 11 by the time I had recovered enough from the excitement to partake in a shower and to generally make myself more presentable. And so we made the long and winding journey to Kew.

Actually although I was a little bit worried about not having enough time to fully explore the gardens (we had an early dinner reservation), I think at this time of year, just a few hours was plenty.

First we headed into the magnificent Victorian Palm House where some robins had made themselves very much at home and we were well and truly steamed (in the literal sense). Then it was straight to the Waterlily House which I managed almost to convince myself could quite easily be in one's own back garden... in my dreams.

Strolling around vast lawns, into exotic worlds and between rocky canyons (of miniature proportions) was truly a delightful way to spend an afternoon. I think we've resolved to return in the summer months where a whole day could be spent lounging beneath, upon and amongst an abundance of greenery.

The evening's dinner reservation was at Bob Bob Ricard, a restaurant in Soho serving luxury English and Russian dishes. The interior and atmosphere was ooft. The service was ooft. The food and drink were seriously ooft! We definitely didn't want to leave.

Two grown up activities were sandwiched between the frivolities of the morning and the Jenga contest that ensued upon our return from the restaurant. This frivolous, denial of being a grown up theme was the one that then continued into the following evening.

Our strength was built up in Breakfast Club where the true diversity of their menu was proven when all ten of us ordered something different! There was lots of mingling for silly photos and catch up conversations before we moved on to Bounce for some serious ping pong.

I don't know quite what I was expecting but what greeting us when we arrived was a pleasant surprise to all. Neon, graffiti everywhere and a shrine to the founder - or would you call them inventor - of ping pong, it was special. An hour flew by way too fast though!

Once our time was up and drinks were polished off, we wended our way back to Seven Sisters for continued game playing; a bit more Jenga, a spot of Uno Dare and Mousie Mousie, a personal favourite of mine and one of those party games where I always scare people with my lightning speed reactions, even after a few birthday cocktails.

Somehow, next thing we knew the dawn chorus was in full song and it was almost 6am. Apparently vigorous games are the way to induce wide awake-ness so as to extend celebrations... I certainly wasn't ready for them to end.

Dreading 25 though I may have been, so far it's been pretty excellent!