Sunday, 30 December 2012

Westminster, Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve found me in an orderly queue outside of Westminster Abbey, waiting for the Christmas Eve service to begin.

The whole experience was beautiful from start to finish. Where else could you apply for free tickets to a service in one of the most famous churches in the world, with carols lead by an exquisite choir of voices, and readings given by local actors and dignities.

Once again, London spoils us with her history, beauty, and elegance.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Northern Line, today.

Christmas Eve rush hour made going to work today almost bearable.

Brixton, yesterday.

Yesterday I had to go on a sprout hunt. Looking for sprouts the day before Christmas Eve can sometimes lead to blows.

Fortunately for me, the nice lady at M&S pointed me in the direction of a huge bin of the tasty wee guys.

Crisis averted.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The future, today.

Dear Next Week,

It would be great if you could please be better than This Week.

Kind regards,

Monday, 17 December 2012

Food, yesterday.

London's pool of dining establishments is bottomless. Culinary problems here revolve around trying to decide where to go, rather than trying to find a place to go. New establishments open daily, and just as soon as you cross a place off, another goes on the list.

This does throw up the problem of 'repeat visit guilt' however. Surely I really shouldn't be going back to a great place, when there are so many other potentially great places I'm yet to try.

But sometimes you just swallow the guilt and go back anyway. That was me at Mishkin's yesterday.

My current favourite London-based, New York style, kind-of Jewish Deli, with cocktails.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sequins, last week.

I try not to make a habit to putting party photos up here (after all, isn't that why Facebook exists?) but seeing as it was requested, Susie, here's a pic of the sequined dress being paired up with a bouffant wig and some fairy lights. Just for you.

Together we were the Alien Supremes. Individually, we just looked royally ridiculous.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas, today.

Mulled wine at book club last night ushered in the festive season as far as I'm concerned. Now the talk is of Christmas jumpers (the worse, the better) and work parties (who, when, and where to after).

This morning found the Franconia ladies tree shopping on the high street avec coffee and roast chicken sandwiches from the market.

This evening Christmas really gets going with this dress having what will probably be its one and only outing in the outside world.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Regent Street, this morning.

On my way to a morning seminar today, I took a sneaky peek down a remarkably empty, but quite festive, Regent Street.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Proud, Sunday.

On Sunday, if you opened The Observer to the arts section, you would have been greeted by a large image of a painting by our very talented Franconia lady, Freya.

A whole lot of people out there dream about having that kind of headline written for their work. Very, very few actually get to live it.

Freya is so ridiculously humble, the first we heard of it was when she flippantly said, whilst loading the washing machine, "Oh. I got reviewed". After we heard about it, we made her do the 'something really awesome just happened which I should celebrate' dance. Then we joined in.

Five years on

The last time I spent five years in one place was my childhood at the Bramwell ranch.

Ever since, I've been galivanting about the globe in a footloose and fancy-free way (in keeping with the title of this blog). Until now.

This week signals my five year anniversary of arriving in London town.

I own a bed, wardrobe, pension, a small mountain of clothes, several large kitchen appliances, and quarter of a sofa. That to me is the height of being 'settled'.

And of this country I now call home?

England, I now understand your jokes. I know what a Blue Peter badge is, and I've seen a BBC radio programme being recorded.

I know the best way to get back from Standsted Airport (definitely the Victoria Line), and I can nod sympathetically when someone complains about not getting into Polpo on a Tuesday evening. I roll my eyes when I have to wait more than three minutes for the next tube, and get pedestrian rage anytime I'm forced to spend a moment on Oxford Street. I know how to pronounce vitamins, data, and yoghurt, and have traded pants for trousers.

But despite the great feeling of being able to calculate your tube journey across the city in your head; or laughing knowingly at another Jimmy Savile joke; it's the people I've met over the past five years that keep me and my heart here.

And as much as I'm nomadic at heart, the longer I'm in London, the happier I am to just dig my toes in. Right here.

Christmas, Robyn style.

Franconia was taken over on Saturday by the culinary whirlwind that is Robyn.

Four courses matched with four wines, separated by four sorbets, all with the flavours of Christmas throughout. it was the Come Dine with Me menu that was too good for the real thing. But we got the pleasure of it, even if the nation missed out.

The food hangover was so bad the next day, Freya and I could barely even look at Bex's breakfast. Although by 7pm we could of course manage the leftovers.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Margaritas, Monday

Every now and then, when there's a special something to celebrate, you should take an evening walk down the Southbank.

Through the fairy lit trees, and alongside the sleeping Thames; smothered in hats, coats and scarves,  we stroll amongst the commuters and theatre goers.

Then we stop at a stack of Mexican themed shipping containers, because it's margarita Monday don't you know.

Sitting in our iron box, we look out across the river, and toast five years in this great city of London.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Caffeinated analysis, Friday.

This is how Friday started. A picture perfect flat white at my favourite coffee haunt in London along with a bunch of index cards signalling the start of my thematic analysis.

It's getting serious now. The first draft deadline is fifteen days and 10,000 words away.

Another flat white please barista..

Christmas, already.


You know it's Christmas when the Quality Streets are on the table. And so begin the arguments about which are the rubbish flavours. And the endless boxes and jars with only the mint ones left.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Slaying a dinosaur

We get some weird and wonderful things in our vege boxes. I'm not completely sold on this guy who my housemate and I have nicknamed 'the dinosaur'.

Our conversation last week went a bit like this:

"What are you doing with your dinosaur this week?"

"I'm making dinosaur cheese. What about you?"

"I'm thinking I'll soup my dinosaur so I don't have to actually chew his scales".

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Franconia family dinner, Sunday.

Recently we've gotten into the habit of having Sunday night Franconia family dinners. Each lady takes a turn to cook up something fabulous and we sit around and de-brief the weekend, and prepare for the week ahead. Giggles and wine are mandatory.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Okonomiyaki, tonight.

This food has so many memories for me.

Night after night in Japan, we'd frequent our local, with it's cheese and corn combo. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in Suzu. I took my family there when they visited, had my farewell party there; and went back both times I found myself in Suzu again.

Now every time I'm back in New Zealand, we cook up a batch of Okonomiyaki on the barbecue.

Fortunately even in times when you don't have cheese and corn 100 metres down the road, it's only a matter of a few stops on the Northern Line away.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Wellcome, today.

Every Friday I spend the day in a quiet corner of the Wellcome library.

I get to be silent. Alone with just my notes, drafts, interviews, and a few thousand medical books for company.

It's lovely.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Autumn, tonight.

The trees on our road are ablaze at the moment.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Croissants, canned.

Who knew that you could get croissants in a can. Who thinks of this stuff? Pastry in a can.

You open up the can, and a roll of pastry comes out, all pre-cut into little triangles which you just roll and bake in the oven.

The fact that they tasted completely pants is an aside to me. They came IN A CAN!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Country, today

One of the Franconia ladies has moved to the countryside. We visited her perfect little house on the weekend and got our yearly dose of tweed.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Canada, today.

My housemate came home from Canada and brought us back possibly the most magnificent cookie of all time. I totally love these bad boys.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Childhood, today

Putting fun back into drinks. 

I'd truly forgotten just how great a coke float is. Adding the coke in incremental amounts to ensure the ice cream didn't erupt all over the table kept me occupied for a good twenty minutes.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Cooked, today.

So this is what happens when the veggie box gets cooked.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Prohibition, London style.

Saturday night saw us head to a hall somewhere near Kings Cross, where we drank gin cocktails out of tea cups and attempted the Charleston.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Nature, today.

As a way of welcoming winter, I've started ordering a weekly fruit and vegetable box (with some eggs thrown in for good measure). Once a week a box of organic joy arrives on the doorstep.

 Here's today's surprise all the way from nature.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween, today

After a week of entertaining us folk at Franconia, this year's pumpkin has gotten a little sad. But we're happy he made it to the day of celebration.

Welcome autumn. Pass me another glass of mulled wine.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

North London, today.

This afternoon I found myself in Newington Green. Never having been there before, I was taken by it instantly as I stepped off the 141.

I loved the way its shops, cafes, and charming collection of houses, were all wrapped around this small green space containing gleeful dogs and old men chatting on park benches.

I think I'd like to live there one day.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Darkness, today.

The clocks went back yesterday, which meant that yearly Sunday afternoon when you look up from the sofa / kitchen table / desk / bath and think to yourself "Oh my, it's dark! Already?!" Then you spend the rest of the evening remarking to your housemates, who also look puzzled, just how dark it is.

Then, the next day (always a Monday), you go to work (in the dim morning light) and at 4.30pm, you play the "isn't it dark?!" game again.

All of a sudden everyone goes into a flap, like an office of chickens; all bopping your heads to look out the windows, clucking to yourselves on the change of seasons.

Here's the sight that met me after work this evening. Shiny, deep October darkness.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

London reading material, today.

More often than not on the tube, if you've forgotten your latest book club read, you can find something to run your eyes over.

Most of the time it will be a well-thumbed Metro or a castaway Evening Standard. But every now and then you get lucky.

This evening on the Northern Line, I actually struck gold. Sitting there on its lonesome, just like some throwaway piece of tabloid journalism, was a copy of today's Guardian magazine. It felt a bit like finding a first edition in a charity shop, only with better recipes.

Ten things to tell the next generation of women

1. There will definitely be times when it is actually not you. It's them.

2. Food is fuel. It's also something to enjoy good times with friends and family over. Try not to over complicate it.

3. Being a teenager sucks most of the time. Believe us, it does get better.

4. Learn to love being alone. We're all required to do it sometime and it's best to learn to savour it.

5. Experiment, take risks, and make terrible fashion mistakes.

6. Keep your terrible fashion mistakes for future generations to laugh at and then eventually embrace as the cycle of fashion revolves.

7. The days of dance cards are gone so just ask him (or her) out. Otherwise years later you may well regret never telling the dry cleaning delivery man you had a huge crush on him.

8. Grow your special friendships like sunflowers; tend to them regularly, make sure they're propped up, have enough sunshine, and get the right amount of water. Then you'll probably find they're actually big, strong oak trees which will be with you year in, year out. Despite the season.

9. Never give up control of your life to anyone. Always keep some money, special items, passions and secrets to yourself. That way you'll forever retain some independence and inner strength that's only your very own.

10. You are the best person to decide what you were put on this earth to do. You will definitely forget this at times. Women have so many opportunities and choices available to them now. Your sole purpose in life is not to have children (although you may choose to do that one day). Don't let anyone make you think otherwise. Be the master of your own destiny.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Old Street, today.

In my favourite caffeinated corner of East London, this is my Friday. A white chocolate and berry muffin, a couple of coffees, and a scribbled on dissertation draft.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Clapham, today.

Clapham is my hometown. Go south of the river, south of the city, and amongst the commons and parks of this side of London, you'll find leafy Clapham.

What I love about Clapham is that for me it feels like a real community. I know all of the shops, restaurant menus, and tramps.

We know the best places for coffee, macaroons, charity shop clothes, emergency birthday gifts, and Thursday night cocktails.

Five things that are making me happy today

  1. Remembering just how cute bumble bees are
  2. Hearing my housemate get in the shower at 6am this morning, thereby having a reason to stay in bed for another ten minutes
  3. Nice looking men in navy trench coats with expensive umbrellas
  4. Kicking leaves on my walk to the tube
  5. Re-acquainting myself with earl grey tea

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

My bed cave in London, today.

I'm currently going through a re-decoration phase. It's all part of 'digging my toes in'.

I've just painted my bed cave (the alcove that keeps my bed cosy) white and dove blue. Now I lie here waiting for the paint smell to dissipate and the walls to totally dry before I move to phase 2.

It looks a little like a cell right now, but it's going to be very pretty, very soon.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

And London, today.

I wore new red shoes today to a secretive speakeasy nestled out the back of Earl's Court. We ate sliders, mac & cheese, and drank potent cocktails under naked light bulbs.

Monday, 22 October 2012

London, today.

I want to capture London as she is for me, every day for the rest of the year.

Here's the side of her I saw today. A particularly misty evening walking across London Bridge.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A new corner of London every day

You could do something new in London every single day for the rest of your life and still die not seeing everything. It's one of the many reasons why this city is so truly wonderful.

On one particular weekend at the start of August, the Franconia ladies ran with a floral theme.

First it was Kew Gardens in the sunshine and occasional downpour.

Then the next day it was back-to-back coffees, fluffy hydrangeas, and overpriced 'antiques' out east on Columbia Road.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Festival season

More than I've ever discovered in any other countries I've lived in / visited, this one goes nuts for festivals.

Every year, when March rolls around, the posters start to go up, and the emails hit inboxes. Line ups are announced, annual leave is booked off.

Of course if you're off to one of the big festivals, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Reading and so on, then you'll already be mid-way through planning by spring. But for those of us that feel a bit old, tired, or clean, for three days of mud, there are plenty of other options around.

So one brilliantly sunny Saturday morning, four girls took a train to a village just outside of Hastings. Broadstock is a wee festival which happens once a year, in someone's 'backyard'. They sell 300 tickets, pink cider, and hearty beefburgers; bands play the day away while the villagers, neighbours and out of towners sit around soaking up the mini-festival atmosphere. There are even apple trees. Seeing fruit on a tree is more of a novelty for a Londoner than you can probably imagine.

Once the kids go to bed, and the bands have packed up, the forested dance area opens up and DJs take over the night, until the early morn.


We all had a very lovely time at our very civilised, non-muddy festival where there was always enough toilets, running water, and cups of tea, on hand.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Summer 2012

So much fun, so many occasions. Sunshine, sangria, sunflowers. Beautiful gardens (roof top and not), pink cider, pop-up bars, and even a bit of Olympic beach volleyball.

So much summer fun, it's just so difficult to know where to begin with the highlight report.

Monday, 16 July 2012

More adventures with hats

The crusade to bring back hats continues...

The face of excitement pre-Queen spotting at Ascot

Ladies that 'hat'

Sailing the seven seas. With hats on.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Happy birthday (now not so) baby Beth


Five years ago today, I landed at Christchurch airport to news that we had a new member of the clan.

When I met her, Elizabeth Ruby was just a tiny wee thing. All legs and arms, and big gasps of air. Hidden away in that protective plastic shell in the neo-natal ward, we all marvelled at how such a delicate little girl could survive such an abrupt introduction to the world.

Five years later and she's taking the world by storm. Whether she's frantically climbing up high things with zero fear, sliding around the living room on her new Rollerblades, or holding court with her rendition of Annie's 'Tomorrow', Beth is our little superstar.

Before we know it she'll be borrowing the car and getting a mortgage. Hopefully still blasting out the chorus of 'Tomorrow' as she does it.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The pages of life

Friday's artichoke remnants

Once a month, usually somewhere in residential South London, a bunch of women get together to talk books. And eat. Mainly we eat, but occasionally we try to get books into the conversation somehow.

Despite the recent trend for pregnancy, the majority of us still manage to consume a sufficient quantity of beverages according to the time of year. Gin & tonics for the current sticky, damp summer; large glasses of red when there's snow resting outside the kitchen window.

This collection of sometimes intimidatingly intelligent women, who spend their days teaching, researching, saving lives, being a social worker, lawyer, art curator, and now a mother, has found a special spot in my life. We now share joys, heartbreak, laughs, and a whole lot of food.

Last Friday found us right near Loughborough Junction de-flowering steaming artichokes, sipping a Costcutter sauvignon blanc, and talking through the mastery of Angela Carter's bloody tales.

It's near impossible for me to think of a better way to end the working week. Even if I consistently end up stuffing the two days beforehand full of book because of my disorganisation.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Back to wartime

Last weekend we went back to wartime. 

Down under of Waterloo Station, there's a set of tunnels which on Saturday night, played host to a D-Day celebration. Not a pair of jeans, or mini skirt in sight; it was all victory curls, braces, flat caps and a lot of military uniforms.

We drank champagne from wide rimmed glasses, and danced to all the greats from the 1940s. 

Some soldier even offered to sell me some nylons at the bar.

I now want to wear hats on a daily basis.