Archive | November, 2011

My first funeral

28 Nov

It may come as a surprise to you to know that today was my first funeral. Yes, I’ve made it to the ripe age of 27 without ever having been to one.

G was a long-standing family friend. More closely associated with my mum and dad (my dad worked with her in the MOD) but important to me nonetheless. I remember many a summer evening when she was visiting other friends in the area and they’d all come round for a bottle (or two!) of wine in the garden. G also gave me a much-needed roof over my head when I first came to London and was on the search for a job, interning here there and everywhere on no salary. Her post-work debriefs with a G&T were my saviour!

But sadly, last week, G passed away from a long battle with cancer. It had spread to her oesophagus and there was nothing the surgeons could do. Her funeral was held at Chlitern Wooland Burial Park (woodlandburialparks.co.uk) and it was unlike anything I’d expected. I went with my mum and it was just the two of us from our family as my dad was still not feeling well enough to attend. It was a dry and sunny, but cold, day and when we arrived we were overwhelmed by how many people were there. The ceremony was incredibly intimate with personal readings from friends, family, colleagues and neighbours and it was held in the most beautiful glass fronted, ornately-carrved wood building, with floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the woodland.

But, although it was moving and I did cry, it was a beautiful celebration of G’s life and achievements, and it made me realise what an incredible lady she was and how much more there was to her than I’d ever known. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past few weeks is how precious people are and how much we must make the most of them while we can. One of G’s saying was ‘every one has a story tell if you have the patience to listen’, and I resolved to live my life by those words from now on, making the time to see people and learn about them and their interests.

After the ceremony G was buried amongst the trees and everyone had brought a flower from their garden to place on the coffin. It was a particularly poignant moment for me because not only had we lost a very special friend, but it was also a reminder of how close I’d come to losing my dad just weeks before. You just never know what’s going to be around the corner.

 

Weekend back home

27 Nov

Popped home to see my parents on Friday and had a lovely time catching up with my dad (who’s just out of hospital following his heart attack). He’s doing well, tired but that’s to be expected. We had some quality chat and enjoyed my mum’s home cooking – sweet potato, apple and ginger soup and lamb meatballs. Mmm!

Also took a lady in the village’s two chocolate labradors for a walk – Able and Mable. After losing Buster earlier on this year, it was a real treat to have dogs to take out. Hoping to walk them again next weekend so will take pics for you to see them. They’re so cute!

The Cat’s Meow

20 Nov

London Swing Cats

So last night I had a night out with a difference. Instead of heading to one of London’s many clubs, I went underground to Guy’s Bar in the basement of Guy’s hospital, for the monthly Cat’s Meow (£12, londonswingcats.com), a swing dancing institution.

Now I’ve never swing danced before but that didn’t matter. There was a short taster class by the London Swing Cats where a group of perhaps 20 of us were taken through the basics of the Charlston – wave those jazz hands! After that the DJ – Vintage Bob – started playing and some total pros took to the floor. It was entertainment in itself watching them spin, skip, and swing across the floor. I used to do Ballroom and Latin American dance myself but swing is in a league of its own. It’s fun, fast and energetic – a great alternative to the gym!

But my highlight of the night would have to be the live band that came on at about 10pm. The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band are the most amazing jazz band ever. With great tunes like ‘I’ve got ants in my pants’ (what track title is better than that?!) and a catchy cover of ‘When the saints come marching in’. Check them out here – rabbitjazz.co.uk – and if you ever get a chance to see them play live, go! You won’t be able to sit still while they’re playing and you’re guaranteed a great night.

I went to The Cats Meow with a couple of friends and I definitely want to make it a regular occurrence – hopefully after a couple of visits I might actually be able to take to the floor properly myself. Ooh, and I should mention, retro dress is a must! Pin-up curls, bright red lips, and a swooshy skirt for the girls; braces, trilby hats for the guys. Definitely a night to remember.

Kew Gardens

20 Nov

This weekend I had M and the in-laws come visit. The weather was amazing – lovely crisp, sunny, autumnal days. We headed straight to Kew Gardens (kew.org) for a stroll and were surprised by some of the wildlife we saw (pics below). We also stopped by the endangered plant painting exhibition – incredibly detailed. Oh, and for the obligatory tea break? The Original Maids of Honour, outside the gardens and a five-minute walk from the Victoria Gate entrance. It’s one of those old-fashioned tea rooms that serve a proper sized slice of homemade cake and tea in dainty china tea cups. Love it! See theoriginalmaidsofhonour.co.uk.

The temperate House with Glasshouse Walkway

The view from the treetop Skywalk

A friendly robin inside one of the glass houses

Kew's free-range chickens!

London Aquarium

8 Nov

Last night I met up with JP for a special event at the London Aquarium (visitsealife.com/london). It was a late-night opening to promote sustainable fishing. There was champagne on arrival, fishy canapes (sustainable of course!), talks from organisations like the Marine Conservation Society, and the chance to wander round and see the fish.

I’ve been to the Aquarium before but it never ceases to amaze me how big it is. Walking past on the Southbank you’d never think there were sharks, turtles and penguins inside. It really is quite impressive. But better still, the staff all seem to know what they’re talking about and actually care. My brother and I asked lots of questions while walking around and the staff on duty were all happy to help. I came home feeling like I’d actually learnt something, which is always good!

The talks were also interesting and informative. I particularly enjoyed the one by the Marine Conservation Society, a charity campaigning and working to protect our seas and the wildlife in them. Check out their website and sign up to receive their Pocket Good Fish Guide, which lists the fish which are sustainable, and therefore safe, to eat, and those which aren’t. (fishonline.org).

New Forest getaway

6 Nov

Yay! This weekend I saw M and we had a lovely weekend away in the New Forest, where we got married. It was to celebrate nine years since we first got together (who could believe it!), the end of M’s first week of exams, and six weeks since we last saw each other.

We’d booked into the hotel where we got married – the FANTASTIC Montagu Arms (montaguarmshotel.co.uk) in Beaulieu – and had treated ourselves to a spa evening at the sister hotel Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst (careysmanor.com). For anyone who’s never been to the New Forest – GO! It’s the one place in the world where as soon as I get there I instantly switch off. Beaulieu in particular is a little haven. It’s picture perfect and my dream place to live. The ponies and donkeys roam free – see them below trying to get in to the local corner shop – and everyone is so chilled and friendly.

New Forest

It was the perfect weather when we were there – all cold and autumnal – so the Montagu had their fires blazing and it felt all atmospheric. On the Saturday we took a trip to the Exbury Gardens (exbury.co.uk). It was the last weekend they were open before closing for the winter but, because of our mild weather so far, there were a surprising amount of flowers in bloom and there were still leaves on the trees. We took the minature steam train and buggy tours of the garden (highly recommend them) before having a stroll ourselves then a doorstop wedge of apple cake and hot cocoa. Days out don’t get much better.

Exbury Gardens, New Forest

Stoking up the steam railway at Exbury

Exbury Gardens

Hydrangea Walk

Exbury Gardens

The Sundial Gardens - a must see

Exbury Gardens

The top pond - full of HUGE Koi carp

Sunday was a walk along the river to Buckler’s Hard and back through the forest before heading our separate ways again. Getting home to Putney and seeing my house mates again, and checking in with M to make sure he got home, made me realise how very different our lives our now. It’s weird. When we’re together it’s like nothing’s changed, like putting on a favourite old glove. Then we’re apart again and M’s living the student lifestyle (see what they get up to in ‘M’s japes’) and I’m back in my houseshare.

On the Razzle

3 Nov

Putney Arts Theatre

Last night went to the Putney Arts Theatre with brother JP to see Tom Stoppard’s On the Razzle. It’s the story of two shop assistants who sneak out for a night on the tiles while they’re employer’s away – with disastrous, and hilarious, consequences. Witty, fast-paced, and with a great cast. Can’t wait to see their next production and such a treat to have my brother to go with – he’s just moved here after nine years living in the US. Great to have him back!

putneyartstheatre.org.uk

Guy Fawkes tea event at The Royal Horseguards

1 Nov

For anyone who likes a bit of afternoon tea, those at The Royal Horseguards near Embankment (guoman.com) are worth trying. The hotel specialises in themed teas – they’ve done floral-infused ones for Chelsea, for example. This month sees them, you guessed it, do one for Guy Fawkes night. B and I headed along for a sneak preview. We were taken down to the cellars with the underground tunnels that lead straight to Westminster – you don’t get a more appropriate setting than that – and treated to a menu of mulled wine jelly, white chocolate and apple cake pops, popping candy bites, and, my favourite, chestnut cupcakes.