Archive | April, 2012

How have I never been to Greenwich?

29 Apr

Yesterday I had my first ever trip to Greenwich – and I can’t believe I’ve not been there before now. It’s beautiful! A real memorial to Britain’s maritime history with clean-lined architecture and gardens you can’t help but admire. It may have been tipping down with rain but that wasn’t going to make me change my plans. I had a day of excitement ticking off two London attractions I’d been eager to see for a long time: the Cutty Sark and the Thames Barrier.

First, the Cutty Sark, the world’s last remaining tea clipper. It’s spent the last five years undergoing major restoration following a fire but the end result is definitely worth the hard work and the wait. I was so impressed by the quality of the exhibitions – just enough facts to be informative without overwhelming, and accessible to all ages. Did you know that a ‘cutty sark’ is a Scottish word for a ‘short undergarment’ and the word ‘clipper’ comes from the phrase ‘to go at a clip’ or ‘to go quickly’? The ship has been lifted three metres from the water and rests, elevated, on the banks of the Thames. Walking through the lower decks where thousands of cases of tea were stored during transit, the upper decks where the crew would have slept, and on the open air upper decks, you can’t help but get a real sense for what it would have been like to have travelled on board – and to feel proud at what is a real wonder of British craftsmanship. I’m also pleased to say that, despite having only just reopened this week, there was no overcrowding – timed entry slots make all the difference.

Isn't she a beauty!

The hull was covered in brass to stop pesky barnacles and you can walk underneath it - I hope those supports are sturdy!

I left on a real high and then walked up river to the Thames Barrier, wishing I’d blanked out more time in my day to look around the National Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College – an excuse to come back! By the time I reached the Barrier, the weather was exhilarating! I was relieved to head in and look around the exhibition showing how and why the barrier had been built in the late 70s/early 80s. I think the exhibition had been created at the same time because it did seem somewhat dated, but informative nonetheless. I was particularly fascinated to find out where the River Thames got its name – see picture below.


Dinner at Emile’s with my lovely brother

20 Apr

Just back from a long overdue catch up with my brother JP. It’s been a good month since I last saw my brother properly and it was so lovely to have the chance for a proper chat – alongside a glass of vino and some yummy food! We headed to Emile’s in Putney (, a French restaurant we’ve both been wanting to trial since we moved in – and it was worth the wait. Perfectly cooked asparagus with parmesan shavings and pea and mint vinaigrette followed by succulent beef wellington with a madeira sauce, all in a cosy setting with excellent service and a good value £25 fixed price menu. Heaven.

We also had some great chat – my brother’s a cosmologist and in the process of applying for some key funding for his research into the formation of galaxies (all very exciting but technical stuff!), and we also discussed the latest exhibitions at the Tate Modern ( I recently popped in to see the new Damien Hirst and Kusama exhibitions. I’m not a huge fan of modern art and the Damien Hirst wasn’t really my cup of tea – animals sliced in half and canvases covered with dead butterflies – but it definitely provoked an emotional response. Fortunately the Yayoi Kusama was far more uplifting with her eccentric displays of fluorescent polker dots and multi-coloured light installations. Her display runs until 5 June and it’s well worth a look, if you’re in the area.

Sushi club goes Vietnamese

18 Apr

Last week was monthly sushi club and this time we headed East to the ever busy Song Que, an award-winning Vietnamese restaurant. Fortunately B had booked – not long after we sat down (at 7pm) there was a queue out the door! C, B and I were feeling adventurous so to start we shared chargrilled quail, shredded pork rolls, and beef in betal leaves – we don’t know what betal leaves are but all we can say is…yum! I could have eaten a small mountain of those little succulent parcels and never got bored. But we’d ordered mains! Noodle broths for B and C (C’s with tripe!) and duck with mushrooms and bamboo shoots for me. All deliciously tasty generous portions, and just £15 each for the two courses which, in London, is a bargain!

The Putney WI’s second meeting – success!

16 Apr

Hooray! Tonight marked the second installment of the Putney WI and I’m overjoyed to say our numbers have not just grown, they’ve practically tripled! I was so pleased to see many familiar faces from the first meeting as well as lots of new ones. I have a feeling this group is going to be a success.

I’d called in a favour from a friend of mine to give our first demonstration. Gift-wrapping guru – and the loveliest lady! – Jane Means came along and wowed us with her beautiful creations, showing us how to wrap everything from boxes to tins to wine bottles. She also showed us how to create a ribbon rose, tie the perfect bow, and make our own beautiful gift bags.

Jane runs classes around the UK so you can pick up tips too, and she also sells an amazing range of her own designs of ribbon. Just check out her website – Not in the UK? Don’t worry! She has a DVD – again, see the website for details.

Easter, Edinburgh, and a trip back home

16 Apr

Sorry for not writing for a couple of weeks. It’s been crazy!

Easter Friday saw me head to Dans Le Noir for dinner with M and my parents. What a treat! It’s a restaurant where you eat completely in the dark. And it’s so dark! We couldn’t even see our hands when we held them a centimetre in front of our faces. You’re served by blind waiters and you don’t know what you’re eating, the idea being you have to use your taste, smell, and touch (!) to identify what’s on your plate. It was a real adventure – venison carpaccio to start, followed by beef with cabbage and salsify puree –  although I have to admit I didn’t do too well with cutlery and ate everything with my hands! Thoroughly recommend it, if not for the food, for the experience. It makes you look at the world in a whole different way when you come back out into the light.

Easter was then spent in Edinburgh with M’s parents – the big send off as he’s now sailing his way around South Korea, China, and South America for the next four months on his first sea phase with the Merchant Navy. Communications so far have been by email only, which, for a couple used to speaking on the phone most days, is surprisingly hard. It’s funny how you come to rely on hearing someone’s voice. But, on the plus side, it does make checking my emails much more exciting! He should be starting his own blog to document his adventures so watch this space; you’ll hear about it here first!

Then this weekend I’ve just been home to Somerset – yay! Another lingering (three hour!) coffee morning at the lovely Mes Amis catching up with my godmother then the rest of the time with my mum and dad, chilling out, catching up and enjoying curry. Yum! Went for a walk to make the most of the sunshine – pics below – then crashed out in front of a warming fire. Heaven.

Lovely cows near my house enjoying the grass, sunshine, and fresh air

Squint and you can see Westbury White Horse in the distance!

A view towards home - the tall trees to the left are my beacon

Happy Easter!

5 Apr

Home baking

Sultanas, white chocolate, and cinnamony goodness – the three main ingredients for my new favourite baked item: hot cross cookies. Last night saw me whip up a batch for the first time to take in as an Easter treat for my work mates, and to help raise money for the company’s charity, Breast Cancer Care. Of course, I had to taste test them before I took them in. One word for you…YUM!


Columbia Road flower market, Hackney City Farm – and more!

2 Apr

It’s been a while since I’ve had a weekend in London to explore so, with the weather on our side, B and I ventured to the East side of London to tick off two places that have been on my must-see list for a while – the Columbia Road flower market and Hackney City Farm.

The flower market starts at 8am (ish) on Sunday mornings but B and I were far more leisurely in our approach, getting there at about 11.30 by which time it was more than in full swing. The narrow road was crammed with flower sellers, tourists and those wanting to buy, and there was a real buzz in the air. But, best of all was the smell – lavender, rosemary, jasmine; it was a treat for all the senses. I was particularly pleased to see sweet peas and peonies – the two flowers that will always remind me of M and my wedding day.

Next up came the Hackney City Farm. I couldn’t wait to get there to see what baby animals were about – piglets, lambs… When B and I arrived, I headed straight to the shop to pick up some freshly-laid eggs for dinner that night before they sold out. We also popped into the cafe for some sustenance and were bowled over by the choice – full English breakfast, rabbit ragu, pie with goats cheese mash, and a mouth-watering selection of cakes. We were lucky to get a table but, even though it was busy, we didn’t have to wait long for our food – two English breakfasts – and very tasty indeed.  Then, off to see the animals – not as many as I’d been expecting, but cute nonetheless.

Finally, because the farm hadn’t taken nearly as long to go around as we’d thought, B and I found ourselves with time on our hands to pop down the road to the Geffrye Museum while we were in the area. It’s a striking building set in beautiful grounds. We were lucky that it was the first day that the herb gardens were open, and they’re well worth a look in, with interesting fact cards stating the different ways in which herbs can be used in the home and for medicinal purposes. Inside, the museum takes you through how the home has developed from 1600 to present day with a series of interesting room installations and memorabilia.

By the time I headed home, I was worn out but on a high from the fun we’d had. Next week, I’ll be up in Edinburgh for Easter and M’s last weekend before he sets off to sea. We’ve already got some exciting trips planned though – notably Alnwick Gardens, another place that’s been on my to-do-list for ages. Can’t wait!