My parents came to stay for Easter Friday and we made the most of the sunny weather exploring parts of London we don’t normally visit. Mum had a walking tour book and it was such a sunny day we thought let’s do this! We took the slightly unusual step in completing the walking tour backwards because we started from the wrong place ( it was easier for us to travel to) but this only added to the fun.A few fun facts before I chat about our route. The city of London is one of only two districts in London to be granted city status, the other is the city of Westminster. The city of London is looked after by the City of London Corporation and is headed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, a separate job role to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.The City of London became a hub with the Romans in 1AD and then grown in the middle ages. According to Welsh legend, it was actually a Welsh King called Lud Son of Heli who improved the pre-existing settlement of Lvndain, which eventually became Lwndwn. Anyway enough boasting about my Welsh / London connections.I should at this stage point out that we actually missed out a lot, the city of London is jam-packed with history and it’s impossible to cover it all in one afternoon. We began our walk at Bank, where I spotted this photo shoot taking place on the steps of the Royal Exchange. Out of shot there was a small team of stylists and hair and make up artists on standby and us, that was it! This part of London is so quiet on the weekend, according to wikipedia, 300,000 people work here in the week and just 7,000 live here on the weekend.We walked up Princes Street and Moorgate to get to the Barbican centre, I wanted to take a quick detour to the Conservatory which was open that Friday. It’s wonderful to look up and see the juxtaposition between the new and old buildings. I’d love to hear what the architects of the older grand buildings think of these glass sky scrapers. One Coleman Street designed by David Walker architects was interesting and I thought it was similar to Richard Seifert’s Park Tower Knightsbridge. The metallic finish on One Coleman Street softened that brutalist edge a bit and reminded me of honeycomb; though I’m not sure that the look Walker was aiming for ;-).We walked past some more gorgeous glass creations and made our way into the Barbican Centre. Can you believe after three years in London it was my first visit, especially as its primary purpose is as a performance arts centre. It’s home to the London and BBC symphony orchestra’s and the Royal Shakespeare Company and was a gift from the City of London to the nation, it was opened by the Queen in 1982.It was so sunny day when we visited, the centre was filled with people on the lakeside terrace; kids were laughing and running around, adults lounged around in the sun reading and there was even a group of teenagers practising Parkour. It looked exactly how the designers of the Barbican would have wanted it. I was keen to visit the tropical oasis that is the Barbican conservatory and wasn’t disappointed. It’s free and I imagine it has seen a huge surge of visitors as succulents and cacti grow in popularity on social media. People were snapping selfies everywhere we turned.After the conservatory we wandered around the residential parts of the Barbican Housing Estate. Despite being voted Britain’s ugliest building in 2003, these Chamberlein, Powell and Bon designed buildings are listed buildings and evoke all sorts of feelings. I definitely preferred some buildings over others but overall the slick, minimalist buildings reflected the efficiency of London life.I love this photo I took of an elderly couple walking hand in hand across one of the pedestrian bridges. I wonder if they moved here as a professional couple in the 1980’s and have lived here ever since.This wooden sculpture was interesting too it’s called Mendelssohn’s Tree and is the remains of a 500 year old tree that fell in Burnham Beeches forest in 1990’s. The corporation of London bought Burnham Beeches for the nation and rumour has it that the composer Felix Mendelssohn sat under this tree when composing the score to ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.’ It looked some what out of place sitting among all that concrete.Next stop was St Bartholomew-the-Great church and hospital but am going to save that for another blog post!
I like to think I’m at an age where I can’t be lured to spend money simply off the back of an advertising campaign but H&M has totally convinced me that I need their entire Summer collection, damn it. The collection is just what I love for summer, tassels, loose and floaty with a slightly California Aztec sort of Isabel Marant vibe. Cool blues, blush creams and tomato reds. They also have some earrings remarkably like these I bought from Accessorize last October.
I actually went into a H&M store last week because I wanted to buy the off the shoulder top for my friend Emma’s birthday. Annoyingly the smaller sizes had sold out both online and in the shops. I love this red dress which is steal at just £14.99! I know the ‘cold shoulder,’ look isn’t popular with everyone but I’m a fan, same goes for off the shoulder tops. It allows me to get my arms out without worrying about them looking fat!
The collection (well the advertising) has worked wonders and I’m craving a summer holiday where I can wear floaty dresses and carry a little clutch bag.
Manna Dew is a café that has opened on Battersea High Street and everything on the menu is suitable for those who have coeliac disease, woohoo! For those who don’t know coeliac disease means you can get really poorly if you eat gluten. Gluten free options have become trendy in the last few years and whilst it is great there’s an awareness out there the ‘shall we just leave off the bread,’ option just isn’t as fun. I was desperate to take my coeliac Mum to Manna Dew and when we visited last Friday, it didn’t disappoint.
We popped in around lunchtime and ordered the Camembert Rocket sandwich, Smoked Salmon Toast and Mozzarella, Avocado and Dukkah. I hadn’t had Dukkah before but it’s delicious, Mohammed one of the owners explained that it’s an Egyptian condiment and is made with over 50 different spices. A refreshing change from all the other avocado toasts options out there. All sandwiches and toasts use the fresh focaccia that’s baked daily. It’s so tasty Mum went back at 10 o’clock the next day to buy some loaves to take home to Wales. We didn’t get around to trying the cakes this time but T and I did sample a strawberry macaron on our first visit and I can confirm they taste just as good as they look on instagram. Speaking of instagram do you follow Manna Dew yet? I can’t get enough of their pretty pictures. You can find Manna Dew on Battersea High Street, coeliac and dog friendly I think we’ll be good friends.
P.S They do afternoon tea too!
Photo’s are my own and from Manna Dew’s Instagram.
When it comes to baking I like to take short cuts wherever possible; I just haven’t got the patience or accuracy to make a star baker. That said, when wondering what to serve as dessert for a dinner party I felt serving a shop bought pudding was a cop-out so I compromised.I walked around the supermarket trying to think of some inspiration when I saw a pre made pastry base, hallelujah I’ll make a tarte. Continuing the lazy quick and easy theme I picked up a jar of caramel dipping sauce and a jar of dark chocolate sauce. Once I got home I heated the caramel sauce in the microwave for ten seconds and then poured into the base; I then popped it in the freezer for half an hour to set. After the caramel had set I poured the room temperature chocolate sauce over it and popped it back in the freezer. I finished it off with a generous helping of smoked salt flakes. Yum. If you like your caramel and chocolate tarte even saltier I found this recipe which incorporates Kettle crisps.
I have always been fascinated by helicopters, I loved to wave to them when I was younger and put my head out the window when I heard the police or rescue helicopter hovering over my house. I also live in Battersea and see lots of helicopters landing in Battersea Heliport every day. When we went to Vegas we booked helicopter flight to and from the Grand Canyon and it was pricey but worth every penny. We have some friends who love flying and I’ve been lucky enough to catch a ride with them on a few occasions and I just love it, you feel so free. My friend N is in training to get her pilot’s license ( in record-breaking time no less) and she suggested I come hang out with her now she’s reaching the end of flight training. How could I refuse?I drove out to Denham Airfield with a massive smile on my face, it was a gorgeous day. My instructor was Chris, a very patient man who’s been flying for over ten years. We tootled around the airfield for a bit just getting a feel for the controls. I actually didn’t mind the peddles or the throttle but found the cyclic really hard to control. After five minutes of playing around we left the airspace and climbed. For some reason the height made me feel nervous, it’s not something I’ve ever worried about before but I think because the R22 ( what I was learning in) is small it also felt flimsy.I continued to practice the cyclic controls, trying to keep my attitude level with the horizon. What freaked me out was the slight lag between my hand movements and the helicopter. So I’d pull the cyclic right and we’d still be moving forward so I’d pull a bit more and then suddenly we were pulling VERY right. I’d then pull a hard left to overcompensate and the wobbling continued. Chris the instructor then said pretend I was mixing a tiny cake, you need to constantly wiggle the cyclic to keep balance. That made more sense in my panicked brain and I managed to keep us straight then negotiate a gentle right turn to land.I relaxed a bit when we came back into land and after swiping off the machine I felt triumphant yet also like I needed a shot of whiskey. It is so fun playing around in the sky and one day I’d love to be confident enough to fly one of these magnificent machines myself.After a quick drink with (ginger ale) my friend N had to set off to get her solo hours in. P and I followed behind her to Kemble, we stopped quickly for a sausage roll and cup of tea (glamorous) and then headed back to Denham. On the way back to Denham we flew over and admired the beautiful Cotswold countryside. We also saw two hot air balloons and my favourite, a Chinook. Perfect for helicopter admirers like me!
I had my tester lesson at HQ Aviation, probably the coolest and best heli school in the world. Half an hour cost £185 if you’re interested. It’s not cheap but provided a memory of a lifetime. Here’s a little video…
Aside from meeting some gorgeous friends I didn’t really have a great experience at Uni. It was my first time away from home and there was so many students on my course I felt like I was barely staying afloat and not one tutor wanted to chuck me a life raft. As I studied English Lit and Drama the practicals were always my favourite, a place I could escape too. When rehearsing for our last practical we had a professional director come in and work with us, and she insisted we start each rehearsal with a song. I’ve never been a strong or confident singer but I adore it and love singing in a group. We would more often or not sing Down To The River To Pray made famous by Oh Brother Where Art Thou? It was a Christian folk song but was often sung by slaves and every time I hear it it sends shivers down my spine. We used to sing this song whilst unpacking our scripts or warming up and it just brings back memories of where I felt most happy in those three years.
At the time I asked my director for more music suggestions and she suggested Natalie Merchant. Merchant is an American singer-songwriter who’s performed in the band 10,000 Maniacs but started to write her own music in 1995. If I’m honest I’d forgotten about her for a bit until I saw her name flashed across my iTunes last week, she then performed on The Andrew Marr Show and I knew it was a sign to listen to her again. I found this NPR performance on Youtube where Natalie sings Weeping Pilgrim with the audience, it was Protestant hymn she discovered in a dusty book at the Lincoln Memorial library, Natalie has brought it back to life at gigs since. I’m not remotely religious but I do think there is a beauty in these simple songs. It starts at 19:05.
If you read my blog you know that my partner T LOVES cars, everything to do with them. Here in the UK we are lucky enough to live near Goodwood. Goodwood is a historic venue for Motorsports, they host a number of events throughout the year and we’ve attended both the Festival of Speed and the Revival. This was the first time I’ve attended a ‘meet’ and it was really fun. It’s a lot quieter than the other events and which made it more relaxed. The boys went on Saturday and us girls joined them for a pub dinner on Saturday before wrapping up and attending on Sunday. The boys had warned us that it was flippin’ freezing so I wore my thermals and my new ‘dog walking’ puffer kept me toasty. I also realised yesterday that I’m slowly turning into a petrolhead, I got excited when the Porshe 117 engines started and I also recognised two cars I’d seen on instagram. Plus I knew the name of a big car youtuber… what is happening to me?The food tent was super pretty and pinterest worthy this year, a vintage tea room in honour of Bill Wisdom a woman who was a daredevil racer in the 30’s and 40’s. I obviously didn’t know Billie Wisdom but I’m not sure decorating a room in pastel colours was the ideal tribute but who knows she might have loved it. Plus the flowers were stunning. My favourite part of the day apart from hanging out with friends and sharing a Mr Whippy was the fairground section. We crashed into friends on the bumper cars, watched an INCREDIBLE display of courage (or stupidity) in the Wall of Death and then my favourite, had a go on a Helter Skelter. I was slightly offended when the chap at the bottom handed me two mats but hey I loved it! If you’re wondering where my coat is from it is from good old Marks and Spencer, I can’t find it online but it might still be in the stores, in the sale section.
Today I risked my life ( slightly dramatic ) to get my Mum a belated Mother’s Day present. Mum wanted something from the UniqloXLiberty collection so earlier I headed to the Oxford Street shop to have a look around the collection.
The shop was busy, really busy and seemed to attract a range of Liberty fans. From smart, classically dresses women, to women wearing crashing prints and colour to teenagers. It was quite interesting to see the pull of the Liberty brand name and of course the gorgeous prints. I went in just to get a couple of t-shirts but I actually didn’t like the material. They felt and looked a little cheap, as did the dresses. I did however, love the linen shirts and the wide leg culottes. I bought Mum a shirt and am having a think about the wide leg pants… the down jackets were also gorgeous. Have you spotted anything you like?
As I mentioned in the previous blog my Nan passed away a few weeks ago and I’ve been spending a lot of time in Wales helping with preparations. Waiting for a memorial service is such a strange time, whilst obviously sad it’s makes you appreciate the good things you’ve experienced and are surrounded by in life. I’ve enjoyed some gorgeous days in Wales and some not so gorgeous but it still looks photogenic to me. These first photos were taken when we visited The Bell at Skenfrith ( will blog about that later). The castle in Skenfrith is one of three Norman castles in the area and was rebuilt (yes rebuilt) some time in 1200’s. The village also appears in one Doctor Who episode which drawers superfan’s to this area of beauty. These next photos are of Cardiff Bay,my brother and his girlfriend now live there in the loveliest flat. The Bay has gone through huge changes in the past ten years and is one of the most successful regeneration projects in Europe. I love the mixture of older buildings like the Pierhead juxtaposed with to the Richard Rogers designed Senedd ( the National Assembly for Wales) and the Wales Millennium Centre designed by Welsh architect Jonathan Adams. Lastly Penarth, I have fond memories of Penarth I used to spend a lot of my life dancing away in the Paget Rooms, it’s also a great place to go to blow away the cobwebs. It was a popular seaside destination in the Victorian era and the Pier has recently been refurbished and is stunning. If you’re thinking about visiting Wales feel free to give me a shout and I can help you out with tips. I flippin’ love it and am grateful to have grown up there.
It is lovely to be back on this corner of the internet. I apologise about the break, I lost my bed buddy and beloved grandmother, Nan on 20th February. Her death was a big shock so I took a bit of time off to not worry about blogging / social media and concentrate on the stuff that matters in the real world! Anyway, as sometimes happens in a period of grief or extreme stress is that there are moments of fun and joy. Last week was filled with these precious moments and by the time the weekend rolled in I wanted to get off that emotional roller coaster and sleep all weekend.However I’d booked in a weekend away with some gorgeous friends from Uni and it turns out to have been the best medicine. The place we had chosen to stay was Forest Holidays in the Forest of Dean. It’s an area I’m familiar with having filmed a lot at Clearwell Caves and Puzzlewood with BBC Wales and it makes me feel at home. I always love driving across the river from Wales and weaving through the forest. The lack of mobile phone signal makes me feel strangely free and my shoulders started to drop. It took me about 15 minutes to drive over from Monmouthshire and then took me two and a bit hours to get back to London. It was also convenient for our friends from the Midlands so we all arrived pretty promptly and poured ourselves some wine whilst watching the Welsh game. The cabins were lovely and reminded me of some of the ski chalets I’ve stayed in, clean and homely. I loved the kitchen area with a nice big table, perfect for laying out the buffet the girls and Adam had planned. I hadn’t eaten much all week and despite eating a lot of the buffet the wine went to my head a bit so I remember the night in parts. There was lots of prosecco, several rounds of Cards Against Humanity and dancing around the living room to Liberty X. At 10:00pm it was time for the hot tub, there’s something special about getting into a bubbling hot tub after dashing through the cold from the cabin. At 02:00 I crawled into bed, and woke up Saturday morning with a slightly sore head. My hungover was improved by eating yummy breakfast burritos made my friends Rhi who runs Lonestar Tex Mex van and watching my other friend Missie, showing off her Rebounce class on The Saturday Show on Channel 5. How lucky I am to know such inspirational and entrepreneurial friends?After a few hours of lying on the sofa and tea drinking we did start to suffer from cabin fever so went for a long walk to Symonds Yat rock, the view from the point was stunning. The breeze rustled up through the valley and helped get those cobwebs right out of my hair. The cups of tea, card games, prosecco, food and hot tub formula continued until Sunday lunch when we said our goodbyes.At 27 I’d like to think I could handle life’s problems with a bit more poise and maturity than getting wasted but turns out that having a drunk, laughing with friends and fresh air really is the best medicine. I’d highly recommend Forest Holidays and I’m already planning another holiday with friends that are expecting kids. Not only are Forest Holidays kid friendly but dog friendly so next time Monty can join us too. Thanks friends for cheering me up, you really do know how to make me smile. Lots of the photos that feature in this post were taken by Adam Moore, he’s got an eye for instagram – you can follow him here.