28 February 2014

Friday figments and photos

What week - time to relax and breathe. It makes taking a moment to appreciate the little things like cherry blossom, blue skies, cake and funny graffiti important.
How's your week been? Are you hanging out for the weekend?
I just keep topping up my gratitude jar.

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27 February 2014

Bath #travelthursday

Bath, I love you.
Your honey coloured Georgian Terraces, the fascinating history, the infamous Sally Lunn Buns, the canals, the fact that you are a day trip from London, your Christmas Bauble shop...

The industrial heritage dotted about the landscape:
The Bath Cathedral lit up at night,

My mate Johnny Depp's house in the Grand Circle Circus (can you tell I was a little sleep deprived whilst drafting this?)

Not to mention the Bath Knob Shop.
The Roman baths themselves, and of course the canals threading through the city centre.
What is your favourite city break?

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26 February 2014

Dinner on the Tube. Well, gourmet dining on an Underground train.

As a bit of a closest tube fan, when I saw that there was a tube Supperclub, I was rather upset to find out that the first one had sold out in a matter of hours. A few months later, some intensive Google searching, and a panicked text message later (to my mischief-in-arms friend on holiday in Spain) we were booked onto a Foodie journey I won't forget in a hurry. Fast forward to one Friday evening fairly recently, and we found ourselves wrapped in thoughtfully provided blankets, wine in hand, ensconced on a London Underground carriage somewhere in North London, knife and fork poised for business. As you do.
Forget late night egg & cress sarnies quietly snaffled in a corner seat, drunken pasties clutched in a tipsy hand (which only minutes earlier was clasping that last, ill-advised glass of wine) or even the worst of the worst - a kebab with a side of chips and curry sauce (only eaten because you know that all the alcohol sloshing inside your belly could kill off diphtheria). This is most certainly none of the above.
The whole Supperclub 'movement' seeks to take diners out of stuffy coporate environments, and provide a way for entrepreneurial chefs to showcase themselves - and hopefully earn a few pingas without staggering overheads. Essentially they are part-time restaurants  where you go to eat delicious dinners for much less than you'd pay in a big name establishment. They are usually hosted in the home of the chef (or roped in accomplice) where you are sat with other selected diners and served a menu of home cooked delicacies. It's a well established Foodie craze, with roots in Prohibition speakeasies and Cuban paladares.  

We simply didn't know what to expect, excitedly shivering and walking to our quaint restaurant. What I didn't expect? The industrial location, the welcoming serving staff, the evident passion in the chefs and the meticulous detailing throughout the meal.
Warmed gluten free bread for me, handmade proper bread for the normal people served with herbed butter.

The hardest decision on the night was actually where to sit. Make friends with the long table, or be frightfully frightful on a table for 3. We went for frightfully frightful, but happened to be sat with the loveliest Australian journo (her mate wasn't quite so lucky - but it certainly made for an unforgettable evening!)

I loved the delicacy of botanical flavour pairings; the rhubarb, scallops and pork starter;

Parsnip, julienned apple, a counter touch of delectable peanut butter, peppery St John's Wort and I-want-to-say-Pork-but-it-may-not-have-been. (Bad blogger, I know, but I was too busy eating to take notes - not that it doesn't really matter as the chefs change the menu monthly according to seasonality and whim.) Regardless, it was a delight.

Tender Lamb neck (something new to me) with a surprisingly aniseedy/liquorice rub, faggot and perfect, creamy vegetable mash. Tasty, and new.

As ever with the gourmet, comes delicate serving sizes.

My dinner date doesn't like waffles (why, I don't understand - what is there to dislike?) but I can certainly confirm that the caramel/honeycomb was divine. And yes, those are rain drops - the poor chefs and serving staff not only battled the smallest kitchen I've ever to seen feed nearly 30 people, but the unwilling elements to boot.

My gluten-free option was a baked apple with caramel & berry compote, and on a cold Winter's evening, there was absolutely nothing better.

The whole meal was topped with a divine dark chocolate salted biscuit and piping hot coffee to warm the cockles of your heart.

Of course we couldn't leave without pretending to drive the train - but those photos will go with me to the grave.
Here, have some forks.

Possibly my best advice is to catch a cab from the nearest station, and either go in summer or with your thermals. We certainly earnt our dinner that night, wandering in the cold trying to search for the venue, and overshooting it by a long way. And just so so you know, the train (sadly) isn't a moving one, fixed in place, but no less quirky because of the variety of it's neighbours. I can't tell you what or who they are, you'll have to go visit.

I was a restaurant, picnic or campside BBQ girl. Oh no, not any more. 
I recommend the @ThePickledFork's #tubedining collaboration with the @BasementGalley team - it's certainly an Underground (pun intended) Supperclub with a difference. Just be warned the price is without wine but I still think it's worth it for the experience. And the astonished looks on people's faces afterwards.

25 February 2014

Charlotte Street, Danny Wallace - Reviewed.

"A heartwarming everyday tale of boy stalks girl..."

Sometimes you just need to pick up a book that doesn't address important issues. Sometimes you just need something to sink in, a willing suspense of disbelief, as it were. Sometimes you just want to be gently buffeted along for the ride. I was given this book as a 'oh, I just thought it might be interesting for you. It surprised me too' kind of read.
The premise is that an ex-teacher, turned reviewer finds a mysterious disposable camera in a restaurant on Charlotte Street. Chaos ensues as he tries to match up the camera via it's contents with the lost owner. This is a humourous, quite pithy tale about friendship, romance and making sure you give life a real go. 

"This is actually a book about getting through life after its kicked you rather hard, even if some of the kicking was self-administered."

I couldn't put the blimmin thing down this weekend. PJs on, cat nearby in case she got cold, tea in I hand, I simply devoured this (after I finished the intense dystopian Delirium series - more to come on that particular front) all 400 pages. London heavily features as a setting, and as ever it made me want to get out the house and explore this suburban setting. Just next weekend. Don't judge, ok?

(Please note any links to Amazon are through my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%) from any purchases made after clicking through these links and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)
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24 February 2014

Dr Johnson; Dictionary compiler, cat lover, Twitter enabler and traveller.

Dr Johnson was quite a man.  
Yvor Winters claimed that "A great critic is the rarest of all literary geniuses; perhaps the only critic in English who deserves that epithet is Samuel Johnson".
His best known work, Johnson's Dictionary, was the first comprehensive English dictionary taking over 9 years (it took 40 Frenchmen 40 years to compile theirs) was a definitive title for over 150 years. It "offered insights into the 18th century and 'a faithful record of the language people used'" unlike many of the day.

He had an astonishing personal life - taking in waifs and strays no matter his own personal finances, saddled with bodily tics, Tourettes and possible OCD, not to mention childhood tuberculous scrofula
He was a rather prolific author. In fact; [Johnson] also displayed many of the obsessional-compulsive traits and rituals which are associated with this syndrome ... It may be thought that without this illness Dr Johnson's remarkable literary achievements, the great dictionary, his philosophical deliberations and his conversations may never have happened; and Boswell, the author of the greatest of biographies would have been unknown. —JMS Pearce
He knew, entertained and argued with the glitterati of the London Literary world.
His home in Gough Square (one of many in London - they were all dependant on his finances at the time) is now a dedicated museum to the life and times of this fascinating man. 
Full of memorabilia, fantastic period door locks (worth a trip in itself), beautiful rooms and walls full of people influenced by this great man, I highly recommend it if you have a ken for history, and a spare afternoon.
 This is a brick from the Great Wall of China. They didn't have cars like we do, back then...
The house also features an architectural detail that has to be totally unique for the times - swinging walls (with doors inset) that allowed the conversion of an entire floor into 3 separate rooms.
Beside his beliefs concerning humanity, Johnson is also known for his love of cats, especially his own two cats, Hodge and Lily. Boswell wrote, "I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat."

The statue of Hodge overlooks Dr Johnsons beloved home...
Can you see him in the distance there?
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Borrowed from the lovely Best London Walks crew - cheers!
His dictionary really is astounding - thousands of pages of definitions, word classes and examples of use. Read the two below. 
This is the attic garret where much of the work was done by Dr Johnson, his manservant and their 5 Scottish helpers. If only the walls could talk...
I love that his humour shines through to this day:
LEXICO'GRAPHER. n. s. A writer of dictionaries ; a harmless drudge... 
This house is simply a time capsule, nestled anachronistically in amongst the glass and steel fronted capitalist greed of Fleet Street and the surrounding business district.
Any way, check out the Dr Johnson House/Museum. It's choice.

22 February 2014

Where to find Blogging inspiration, snare the writing muse.

Blogging is wonderful. The amazing people who share your obsession, curiosity and wanderlust. The experiences you find yourself emotionally richer, and possibly cash poorer for. The wealth of skill learning (photography, story-telling, promotion, networking, design and dedication). The feel-good audience feedback. The amazing advice (travelling tips, expat stories, recipes and musings on life.) All coming thick, fast (and with the occasional typo).
But sometimes, <insert jaws music here> the ability to write about it all dries up.
Tumbleweed. Nill. Nothing. Nada, just an empty white screen and your cursor blinking at you in a mocking manner.
I blog 6 days a week which is crazy, I'll admit it, but I'm determined to stick with completing my 101 in 1001 goal of blogging everyday (well, 6 days anyway). I've tried to structure the week so that a) readers (this would be you) come to expect certain things on certain days (M: London-y stuff, T: Book Review, W: Foodie something, T: Travel, F: Roundup & S: Something random, it's the weekend afterall), b) one isn't stuck writing about the same stuff every single day (I certainly wouldn't want to read it) and c) when planning/dreaming/thinking I know how I can proceed with the week.
So that's probably my first tip: Pick your favourite topics/themes and use them in a regular fashion. Get into a subject groove, and don't be afraid to develop it into a series.
Next tip? Do lots of fun things. It's harder to physically do this when you live in a small village or are less cash rich than you'd like to be (I know I am...) but it's also hard when you're attitude is to let things come to you. I have a pretty boring job - whilst I enjoy it, I found that I was getting way to emotionally involved and needed a distraction to take away some of the pressure. Now, I make sure that something fun is planned - even if it's a random talk in a Library, a glass of tea with a good friend or watching a parade. Get your butt onto Twitter, go for a walk with your camera, pull out that dusty bucket list or make something interesting.
Read other blogs or join in linkups. This is one of my favourite ways to find inspiration. Don't copy them, but put your own spin on a blog post, respond to an opinion (in a positive way, no trolling people) or simply join in with a cool idea. I've always wanted to join in a 'what's in your handbag' post but haven't ever got around to it. Possibly also because there are so many loose penny coins in my bag that if I ever cleaned it out and removed them, my inner ear balance would be upset.
Take a break. Let yourself relax.
Stroll through your archives and write a retrospective/best of/round up post. All the best musicians do it, why shouldn't you?
Go through your draft folder and camera memory. Goodness knows I've found some fantastic posts this way. Write a 'what if' or 'how to' post. What if you won the lotto, were offered a dream day in London, or do you have a skill that you want to share with the world? Be brave, write that post you've always had lurking in the 'should I really?' folder. Offer to guest post.
See what I've done here...?
What's your favourite trick?

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21 February 2014

Friday figments & photos

My blog isn't an intensely personal one. I don't use it to exercise demons, but energise my podgy little legs into taking full advantage of London's offerings. But, this week has been full of fun, celebration, deliciousness and lovely friends, new and old.
A week of nerves and relief, tea-ing with gorgeous bloggers and scrummy gluten free scones, friends who get me, panics about the Wong Kei closing and how my review was the cause, a long-over due trip to the Brook Green Counter and Table, spring blossoms and hosting my first ever Twitter linkup with the New Zealand Business Womens Network.

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