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 92 entries, showing page 3 of 7 
Saturday, December 18th 2021
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deck the halls (and the kitchen)...
The Christmas preparation continues apace; my beautiful rental Christmas tree arrived safely and has taken up happy temporary residence in a corner of the living room until it’s return home with the rest of the visiting trees in the New Year – yay! I have managed to not break a single glass decoration, which is something of an achievement, although 2021 Tree’s diminutive size compared with last years’ strapping six footer means anything that falls off doesn’t have far to go; good news when I bought most of them from Fortnum’s after getting slightly carried away amongst the tinsel last year when everything was shut and miserable.

There has also been a trip into town and a walk up Bond Street to see more Christmas lights, carol singing at the Battersea Dogs Home carol service in Chelsea (which cheered me up no end not least thanks to the mince pies and mulled wine, the latter definitely erring on the rougher side – exactly what free mulled wine served in a paper cup ought to be), and my second and third visits in a month to the O2 for Christmas films, since their Cineworld is getting far more into the spirit of things than my usual Leicester Square branch, although the Prince Charles Cinema trumps all others as always (Jingle All The Way is a particular highlight at least for anybody who, like me, will happily hand over any amount of money just to see Arnold Schwartznegger punch a reindeer in the face).

I now have plans for both New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day thanks in no small part to the Tate Modern and (predictably) the Prince Charles Cinema, but also the Ministry of Sound and its through the night New Years’ Day party – usefully enough, it only being a short bus ride (or slightly longer walk, at least depending on temperature and knackeredness) away, no concerns about having to leave at a sensible hour. I am slightly aghast to admit that I am middle aged enough to have left Pete Tong to it the other week in Brighton fifteen minutes before the end so as to preempt the cloakroom rush and not miss the last tube back from Blackfriars (I know, but I’d been on my feet all day).

New and glittery Converse are ordered for any upcoming festive evenings out and are winging their way over as I write; I am never knowingly underdressed, although to be fair being in Central London makes it virtually impossible to be either under or over provided one actually is dressed at all, and even that isn’t always a requirement. My glittery gold skinny jeans may even make another appearance, but only if it’s extra cold; I am still a little traumatised by the fateful year when, post Christmas, I overestimated the tensile strength of a pair of cheap skinnies way back when in the days when they were made from plain cotton denim, fell off the wall I’d been sitting on waiting for a bus which never arrived and eventually had to walk home with my friend in a blizzard pissed, muddy and with the arse hanging out of my breeks.

Back to the present day, and as per the Christmas page I will be here until Wednesday afternoon; whilst Monday in particular is filling up a bit, there is still plenty of elbow room for anybody wanting to get a visit in before I go off and take to my sofa for a bit of a rest – yay! For those who can’t, don’t worry – I’ll be back in a week.

More soon!

Monday, December 6th 2021
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night at the museum!
It’s December already! I know this partly because of my many advent calendars, but even without the daily excitement from Fortnum & Mason, Space NK and Bonne Maman, the weather has provided ample guidance.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the encroaching gloom, the last few weeks have been as busy as ever, with barely a moment to spare between orchestral clubbing at the O2 with Ministry of Sound, the obligatory cinema trip or two (the Raid/Raid 2 double bill with Gareth Evans attending to answer questions being a particular highlight) and my new favourite thing to do on a Saturday night, camping at the Natural History Museum.

For anybody who wasn’t already aware, adults can pay to arrive in the evening with sleeping bags, pillows (stuffed triceratops optional), and their toothbrush, and settle in for the night with a three course dinner, biology/dinosaur themed talks from experts, films, a spot of handicrafts – I was and am very proud of my new dinosaur friend and his pipe cleaner scarf – and not least, the run of the museum for the entire night. I had a blissfully quiet wander around the (usually mobbed) Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at 1am with half a dozen or so others to wind up before taking to my sleeping bag around 3am when the main lights go out. I did brush my teeth.

A full breakfast and a trip to the museum shop for a sparkly dodo to go on the Christmas tree later, I was on my way back across town in minus temperatures to spend the rest of my Sunday in bed. I cannot recommend Dino Snores enough, and given that the NHM’s Silent Discos are back too, I suspect I will be spending more time over at South Ken than I ever thought I would after my one attempt at actually working there (in 2009, I think) ended after a day and a half with my bogging off back to civilisation in a huff, or more specifically my favourite hotel in Waterloo where the punters – whilst not perfect – generally managed to conduct their bookings without whining, sulking or patronising me to within an inch of my life. The Invisible Line Of Cuntery is drawn somewhere between Pimlico and Sloane Square, I think.

I also had a semi-unexpected trip down to Brighton to see Pete Tong when the opportunity arose last week; Mr Tong has visited most of us in spirit on plenty of unwelcome occasions I’m sure, but I wasn’t going to turn down another chance for a spot of Ibiza nostalgia even if it did mean a bit of a train ride. Brighton is now the furthest south I have ever been in the UK (which means that it’s Burger King is also the most southerly place I have ever had their lovely crispy chips, although with it being five or so years since I last had Burger King, the location was not foremost in my mind at the time), and I will be back.

As of this next week (and as we can hopefully see from the fairly hastily cobbled together Christmas page overleaf on Proper Blog - I can't post it here), things will be settling down a bit and whilst a fair few evenings are still taken up with the usual Christmas films and so on, I will be here until the evening of the 22nd and keeping as much availability as possible including a fair chunk of Saturday 18th – yay! After a bit of a break I will be back (albeit in a limited capacity) just before New Year and then again just after before everything returns to business as usual a week or so after that. I will be also taking bookings slightly further ahead than usual (from previous visitors, that is), for those who like to plan – for clarity this means a week or so at most.

I will endeavour to get another update in before Christmas, but in the meantime I will be well wrapped up and looking forward to the celebrating – Christmas tree is next on the list! There will be plenty of goodwill to all men on offer too, needless to say.

More soon!

Monday, November 8th 2021
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put on your high heel sneakers...
Well when I started this post the London Film Festival was in full swing, and whilst I’d forgotten how exhausting charging around between myriad cinemas daily while trying to eat, sleep and earn a living can be, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and even managed to get a bit of red carpet action in not once, but twice!

I will point out that the picture above was taken at half past one on a Saturday afternoon before Ron’s Gone Wrong (which is lovely), hence the Converse – I would not and did not turn out to the Saturday night gala (Titane – pretentious try-hard cobblers) in anything other than my trusty Doc Martens (and vintage Jean Paul Gaultier, it being the first opportunity to enjoy wearing impractical clothing for a very long time). I also found time to crowbar the new Bond film in after two false starts (and in the 4DX screen too thanks to my trusty Unlimited card) and was surprised to find it was great fun (and I speak as somebody who hasn’t seen a Bond film in the cinema since Roger Moore was in them – Octopussy, I think).

A month or so on and once again, the available time for writing about things to see, places to go and new and exciting activities to do has been well and truly taken up by doing them – the last couple of weeks alone have seen me apple picking in sunny (and unexpectedly flat – I have never been anywhere so flat) Essex with the Felix Project, some Halloween horror at the Prince Charles, a cosy evening with Grayson Perry (also of Essex, at least originally) back at the Royal Festival Hall and getting some showtunes in with Anything Goes at the Barbican before the run ended as well as taking on a few extra projects at home, not least starting the Christmas plans in earnest! Details will follow asap – there wasn’t a great deal of value in putting up the usual Christmas availability page *on Proper Blog, not here* last year, but it will be back very soon, and dates/times are being finalised almost as I type.

The (rental) tree and main food shopping are ordered, fancy advent calendars are on the way, and several Christmas films plus a carol service are booked; I can now pretty much forget about the whole thing for a good few weeks and enjoy the last of the dwindling days where the sun is out for more than twenty minutes (fingers crossed). Availability is back to usual after being a bit thin last week, and I also have two Saturdays coming up, for those who find weekdays a bit of a challenge!

This coming week sees the Ministry Of Sound 30th Anniversary at the O2 (which starts early in the evening and finishes before I remember the MoS opening on a Saturday night the last time I was in it, but then I suspect I’m no different to other attendees in being of an age where we like to be home, kettle on and away to bed at a sensible hour nowadays) complete with orchestra – given that I also have a ticket to see Maximum Overdrive at the PCC, it’s going to be a nostalgia-fest of a weekend. So I will be digging out the Gazelles (but not the Wonderbra, partly because I no longer own one and mostly because even thirty years ago they were no use for anything except stashing one’s gear in the pockets where the bra pads went) and setting off for Greenwich in good time, but not so early I can’t accommodate a visitor or two prior! Not too early, though. I’m going out later on.

More soon - Masterchef is back tonight and I need to get the tea on. Life in the fast lane, as ever.

Monday, September 20th 2021
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everyone's gone to the movies...
And the return to normality continues apace!

I did have the chance to catch up on some domesticity last weekend when some of my Saturday plans were unexpectedly cancelled; the plans to wash my hair and finish off the honey cake went ahead without incident and I not only got a fresh set of listings on eBay sorted but another cake too, thanks to half a bag of desiccated coconut of indeterminate age I found at the back of the baking cupboard.

I also crowbarred in a trip to the Natural History Museum to scope out camping spots, a film afterwards (Copshop – pedestrian) and a trip to the big Sainsbury’s in Pimlico to get the shopping done; it was a good day! Things are finally cooling off towards tights and boots weather thankfully – fingers crossed that coats will be next, and my giant scarf – so giant that I didn’t have the time to finish knitting it before the weather turned last Spring – is almost complete in preparation. My many trips to Cineworld have all required an Arctic get up irrespective of the outdoor temperature thanks to their previously mentioned robust aircon and free-spirited attitude to energy usage, and I will enjoy not having to carry it all there and back with me like a bloody nomad or risk fainting from heatstroke on the underground. Tonight’s 4K restoration of A Clockwork Orange was no exception, and I was thankful to have packed my woolly hat.

This week is shaping up to be a lively one; in other underground news the latest bit of the Northern Line is now open as of this morning and I was up early with a full compliment of fellow train nerds to go for a ride over to Battersea Power Station via Kennington and through the also-new Nine Elms – yay! The new BPS tube station apparently has sixty two roundels which I didn’t have time to count before heading back (although there is one over on the proper blog, where as many pictures as I want are allowed), but one day I will. It’s good to have goals.

The approach of October means the London Film Festival, and all looks to be back on track after last years’ limited offering. Definitely back on track was the ticketing system, which cost me a full hour and a half of my life just to book a dozen cinema tickets after the predictable (and annual) meltdown of the website following a month or so of regular ‘reminder’ emails about when the tickets would be available to buy; at least one of us remembered! I did manage to secure a seat for the Saturday night gala screening of Titane - this years' Palme D'Or winner at Cannes - at the Royal Festival Hall, so given that this is a red carpet situation I will be certain to wear my very nicest and shiniest Doc Martens.

LFF runs from the 6th to the 17th of October and I will update availability nearer the time, but most of my tickets are for early to mid evening at times when I would normally be in one cinema or another anyway and won’t have a big effect on anything. What might is the midnight screening of the new Bond film next week (but I’ll jump that one when I get to it), and what definitely will is my trip to see the Sopranos prequel on Wednesday afternoon, when I will be off grid from lunchtime onwards – I’ll make up for it next week.

More soon! It's going to be a good week...

Monday, September 6th 2021
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Shanah Tovah!
…and happy Rosh Hashanah to all, but especially to the lovely lady who fed me honey cake and told me all about it.

It’s been another busy week! As we can see above, immediately after posting new and representative pictures I (apropos of nothing in particular) decided to highlight my own hair, a considerable saving even with the kit and with a reasonable degree of success considering I can barely even spell balayage. I’m very happy with the (admittedly slightly crisp) result – for a first attempt anyway – and hopefully it will brighten up the autumn days please some autumn days a bit. Tights, boots and my new tartan skirt here we come, at least after this week which according to the forecast will be heading back the other way. Thank God for the aircon.

Planning has continued apace now that fun is back to being allowed outside my flat as well as in it, starting with yoga at the Ministry Of Sound in a couple of weeks, a trip to the museums next weekend and the requisite cinemagoing including a Raid 1 & 2 double feature on Friday evening – yay! My first 10K in a while in the form of a nearby Race For Life is coming up too, which means I will be getting my running shoes back on in earnest – it’s been far too long, and I have no doubt that my back will remind me of exactly how long without any hesitation at all.

I’m also booked in for ballet at Covent Garden for Christmas, Cole Porter at the Barbican plus Grayson Perry on the South Bank in October and a chance to dust off my cargo pants and gazelles they are not dusty and get my space buns on for the Ministry Of Sound’s 30th Anniversary at the O2 in November. Plus most exciting of all, a chance for a lengthy nerd-out at the Natural History Museums’s Dino Snores For Grown Ups overnighter – long planned and now happily reinstated (and booked immediately alongside the aforementioned fact-finding mission next weekend when I will choose a camping spot).

This last also led to a rummage in the loft for a sleeping bag where I discovered a box of vinyl records I’d given up hope of ever finding and decided I must have sold (along with a lot of my other vinyl records back in the day, on the basis that even in 1991 people didn’t eat black plastic) and a happy evening poking about among my Iron Maiden picture discs and Beastie Boys 12" singles to name a couple of fab finds. Time will be set aside for a proper look through as soon as I have any – and I did find my sleeping bag!

All of the above mean that over the coming few months I’ll be here on more Saturdays (including the upcoming one) and details will be added overleaf; in the meantime visitors here won’t notice much (the slight Pringle-related growth as seen in the photos is on and off). Weekdays are as advertised, for now at least, and yes I am at Monument *please stop asking me where I am and other stupid questions, unless you actively enjoy seriously stupid answers*.

More special occasions over the weekend; Beyoncé and I now share more than an acute accent, since as of last Saturday we are now both in our fifth decade on the planet – yay! Happy 40th birthday, and whilst I won’t be joining in the energetic dancing in high heels any time soon, I will stand tall and proud in my favourite Isabel Marant wedge heel trainers, which render me a positively statuesque five foot five and make me feel a bit like a giraffe.

Nobody is more fabulous than Beyoncé - that’s just maths. As above, I’ll be here all week but for now it’s back to work, crispy hair included.

More soon!

Monday, August 30th 2021
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august bank holiday means one thing...
Hello from Leicester Square! You’ll be reassured to know that Leicester Square on the August Bank Holiday weekend is gratifyingly normal – busy, smelly and very noisy (currently the fire-and-brimstone preacher outside the casino is in full swing competing with the buskers on the corner while the nice quiet Muslim guys hand out free Qu’rans and chat to everybody), and that’s from somebody who frequented many punk gigs once upon a time. The giant inflatable Suicide Squad starfish has gone, though.

For the last few months generally and the last few weeks especially, going out and doing things rather than sitting about the flat thinking about doing things has been the order of the day and writing about both has taken a backseat as a result; I’m currently on the final day of FrightFest (recommendations from the weekend and many others on request ***Riders Of Justice***) and everything is very much back to business as usual, or at least it will be from tomorrow when I’ve had a full nights’ sleep, knocked the Irn-Bru-and-TUC-sandwich-biscuit diet adopted over the weekend in order to cram the films in on the head and look less like shit (and see above).

The City is filling up again, new places are moving in to replace the gone-but-not-forgotten (small café at the top of my street, sadly no more; Doughnut Time two minutes away on Fenchurch St – woohoo!) and best of all the Prince Charles Cinema is booking all nighters, marathons and double bills at full capacity with a vengeance. So I’ve had a bit of a holiday – the reopening of galleries and cinemas is at least partly to blame (and certainly my new Cineworld Unlimited card, which has allowed me to wander in and out of what was the Empire practically at will for the last three months or thereabouts), as has been the pleasant weather and more obviously, the gradual increase in visitors now folks are starting to wander back into town – yay!

I promised myself I wouldn’t leave it more than six months, and whilst a hiatus in the form of a complete break from all work-related stuff bar the bookings themselves (necessary given the rent and bills, plus like most people I got a several-month break from bookings last year whether I wanted one or not) has been lovely, it’s time to settle back down into the routine things. Alongside the brand new pictures (finally!) and a bit of a general tidy up, that includes the – slightly neglected, but definitely not forgotten – blog. I am (equally definitely) back.

The vigilant will have spotted a minor availability change; I am now otherwise engaged volunteering one day a week until mid afternoon out at Poplar (so not far away) and thus not availabile in either the morning or over lunchtime. This is currently Mondays (and anybody who has ever tried to speak to me first thing on a Monday morning will be under no illusion that parcelling me off somewhere else for a few hours to acclimatise is a very good idea) but possibly switching to Fridays. You’ll know when I know, although anybody who habitually books after 2-3pm is unlikely to notice a thing one way or the other, to be honest.

There are more up and coming events, nights out and shenanigans organised for the months ahead but for now, it's back to the films! Phone will be on tomorrow and it's business as usual; the new pictures are done and the next update will be here asap. But we have a Bank Holiday to finish first...

More soon!

Monday, March 1st 2021
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spring has (nearly) sprung!
And for those who weren’t sure – which is entirely my fault for not updating – I’m back!

Since I brought the aforementioned ice and snow with me upon my return three weeks or so ago and having spent a good couple of months putting it off, I have been diligently catching up with this years’ accounts, normally an easy but tedious job much like putting the washing away or cleaning the grill (also similar in that if I had spent as much time just cracking on as I did kvetching about the minutiae, it would all be finished and I would be back in my rightful place under the duvet with a box of custard tarts and the remote) and if anything simpler still this year given that there wasn’t an awful lot to record for longer than even I’d realised.

Thankfully the worst of the admin was done just as the weather turned and without wanting to jinx it, I was thrilled beyond measure to see the snowdrops outside the Walkie Talkie on my way to M&S as a first tentative sign of spring (as opposed to the more robust signs of winter a couple of weeks prior), but I don’t get out much. Although last Wednesday marked the second (and more concrete) sign of the coming season in that I went out without a coat on for the first time in what must be months. Only the once mind, and I had a scarf, a hat and some mittens just in case.

This last week especially has been gloriously bright and mood-lifting as can (hopefully) be seen in the pictures– newly inspired, I have decided to set a half day aside soon to enjoy a bit more open space and greenness. Most likely will be a walk over to St James’s Park; an enduring favourite of mine for a good few years now (especially since I can combine the trip with a razz around the big Sainsbury’s market on Wilton Road whilst I’m over that way – the excitement may be too much) for some lakeside strolling about and pelican spotting. Cherry blossom is also on the way, so my postponed-from-last-year jolly over to the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park will soon be in the offing for a bit of sakura-style zen time and maybe a feed of the fish, assuming I can remember to bring along something suitable mine like banana.

The other news that I have been waiting for is the reopening of hairdressers (in April, I think), and whilst I’ve undoubtedly saved a fortune even allowing for a couple of huge and shamelessly profligate Cult Beauty orders, it’s high time somebody else took over. Whilst the optimist in me hopes I’m managing to blag any occasion involving going out in public with the covetable air of one who only has to wake up, shake their hair out and dress in whatever was on the floor from last night to appear effortlessly stylish and insouciant, unfortunately after all the Christmas food and now three (soon to be four) missed hair appointments I just look like Chewbacca would if he ate at Burger King every day for a month and slept in a skip throughout. Not to worry.

So after all that, it’s business as usual (or what has come to be usual, at least) here in my quiet corner of the city; as most will realise this means less availability than would be ideal, but getting requests in in good time ought to sort it so I’m actually in the flat. If the weather holds over the next couple of weeks then as suggested above I likely won’t be, so do try to give me some warning!

More soon! It’s going to be a good week…

Wednesday, January 20th 2021
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I come from the land of the ice and snow...
…and that’s where I’ll be going shortly, or at least some of the way. Since I’m having a break whether I like it or not and with my birthday in a couple of days, I’ll be heading home for a week or two of peace and quiet, a bit of sea air and some bracing walks.

That’s the theory at least, the more likely outcome being a week or two of peace and quiet under my sofa blanket watching TV with whatever freezer tapas I can rustle up by throwing an assortment of what the supermarkets call ‘party food’ in the oven for twenty minutes when I can be arsed to move (and since when has anybody needed a party to eat their body weight in crispy beige things off a baking tray in their dressing gown?)

More constructively I have made a majestic effort to take the shopping down a notch despite the winter sales and special offers, since the return to a semblance of my usual size over the summer brought about something of a splurge that included many, many pairs of boots and also of shoes (despite my feet being largely unaffected by the home-baking-and-Pringles diet of late Spring 2020). Plus countless tops, bottoms, jumpers, jeans, dresses, pyjamas, scarves, handbags and coats. Always coats.

Kidding myself that I’m saving money because I buy everything except socks and underwear secondhand is something of a pipe dream (in the short term, anyway) when the secondhand shoes in question are Chanel patent leather loafers or Manolo Blahnik satin pumps that cost roughly fifteen times what the likes of New Look would ask for a brand new pair. And likewise, whilst there are countless other good reasons to eschew the chain stores and choose the better pair (or neither, since cheap shoes hurt my feet), none of them are applicable to those who are not earning anything and have expensive rent to pay bar possibly the fact that the good stuff always has a resale value. And they’re pretty!

Regardless of any of this, belts need to be tightened both physically and metaphorically and so far so good; no clothing purchases at all since the start of the year and it’s the 20th already – yay! A small exception may be made by way of a birthday present (or rather another one, since my latest Abe Books order is winging it’s way over as I type), although as today is Trexit day – like the old song says, who could ask for anything more?

So to business – or rather the continued hiatus from it – and I should provisionally be back at the start of the second week of February at the latest; another Kings Cross closure is on the agenda for the weekend after next so I’ll be avoiding the associated ballache and likely returning a few days later, but if I’m honest I really can’t say for sure. We’ll just have to play it by ear, but you’ll be the first to know!

More soon; I will report from the boondocks just as soon as I’ve got the bra off and the oven on...

Tuesday, January 12th 2021
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it's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood...
After a week of settling back into a vaguely normal routine, and buoyed by my ever-relentless desire to look on the bright side, not that anybody with underfloor heating is going to have a tough time doing that (and speaking of which I should admit that – as befits my thrifty nature – I have also found that it’s very good for drying clothes; bonus!) I have pretty much given up on receiving useful enquiries and am reverting as of now to my previous Regular And Returnees Only stance. And not many of those.

Instead I’m taking advantage of the post-New Year quiet to do more exploring, and I have selfishly enjoyed having the City’s tiny streets and passages virtually all to myself (even if mostly for the purposes of catching Pokémons and getting in on a few battles while doing so); whilst sitting down for a read of the paper on the steps of St Paul’s or reclining on the grass in the (closed) fancy hotel gardens up the road is less appealing in January, the extra free time to get out and about in the fresh air is always a pleasure. Especially when the sun is out, the tourists are somewhere else and the traffic is down to barely a trickle.

I have read a lot of blue plaques, googled a lot of churches and street names, and generally availed myself of the stuff that’s right on my doorstep, not least London Bridge five minutes or so away. Spurred on by a programme on Channel 5 of all places, I have learned that not only is it the oldest bridge in London, it was the only bridge across the Thames for seventeen centuries, with houses, shops and even a Keeper Of The Heads to look after the reality TV of the day - the boiled and pitch-dipped heads of traitorous folks on their spikes to remind everybody of what happens to, well, traitorous folks (only the highfalutin’ ones, mind. I’m not clear on what happened to the pleb traitors).

There is a model of the whole thing in St Magnus-the-Martyr a couple of streets away where the original bridge would have ended, which is now well ahead on my list of Things To Visit the next time the opportunity arises. I could of course go to Mass for the first time in about fifteen years, but I think they’re mostly doing it on Facebook at the moment and nothing on God’s earth will have me signing up for that (or Twatter, or any of the rest of them while there is still drying paint in the world). Next weeks’ installment is about Tower Bridge and I will definitely be watching, having had planned visits at the local residents rate of £1 a ticket (bring your council tax bill) scuppered not once now, but twice.

By contrast, last weeks’ special treat was a walk up to the giant Sainsbury’s at Whitechapel, a behemoth amongst supermarkets whose fresh herb offering alone is enough to induce a state of euphoria just this side of panic, a little like a middle aged version of the nights out thirty years or so ago but without the drugs, glowsticks and (thank God) the obligatory gurning cunt in a felt jesters hat hanging around everywhere you looked – given that I still own and wear voluminous cargo trousers, a dozen or so pairs of different coloured gazelles and even a slip dress or two, the only other real difference is the setting not being a disused warehouse or a field. I even still have most of the records (I promise faithfully never to inflict Poing by Rotterdam Termination Source on others).

After buying as much I could carry including coriander, fenugreek and cardamom pods for curry cooking, an improbably huge sweet potato and a big pack of pickled onion Monster Munch (if I’m not going to be working it matters not if the flat and I stink), I arrived back at HQ realising that I had forgotten to call in for dark chocolate Bounty bars when I passed the shop. I’ll just have to go back next week.

So as above, it’s a bit of a closed shop again – sorry! I’ll keep updating with pictures of my groceries and meanwhile, since I’ve covered availability, local history and culture, it’s time for some potato butchery and a bit of a dance…

More soon!

Monday, January 4th 2021
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happy new year, etc...
…and yes – Merry Christmas too. Halloween was also OK if memory serves, given the extra effort put into the film offerings on TV. It’s been a while!

The temperature has dropped fairly dramatically since last time too as can be seen in the picture; fortunately less so here in the flat where my discovery of the underfloor heating controls was almost as exciting as the air con was in the summer, although the latter didn’t result in quite the same temptation to spend my free time reclining on the bathroom floor in my pyjamas with a cushion, a peanut butter-banana toastie and last night’s paper.

As you might expect it’s been an unavoidably quiet couple of months, even with the brief respite to pack in a visit to the hairdresser plus as many trips to the Prince Charles Cinema as my pocket would stand; October’s scaled-down London Film Festival provided this years’ biggest hit and I’m still feeling extremely fortunate to have seen Soul on the big screen in NFT1, even if the eventual Christmas Day premiere on Disney+ made it available to (almost) all. With six months free Disney+ courtesy of O2 I didn’t need asking twice especially with Muppet’s Christmas Carol on offer too – having also just committed myself to rewatching The Sopranos from beginning to end followed by Oz (in a month – NOW TV 30 day free trial) it would be fair to say I’m up against it somewhat even if the next few weeks of enforced hatch-battening sofadom aren’t looking too bad, all things considered. There’s even some stollen left.

Of course it’s not really the way I’d planned my first full year as a Londoner to wind up (with or without the gratifyingly Daily Mail-enraging drone and firework show), but I can at least report some good news in that the flat is fully signed up and still mine for the foreseeable – yay! Whilst I’m not exactly flush (and I suspect not many of us are), I will be continuing to sit it out in much the same way for as long as needs be – in the meantime I have tentative plans for my birthday in three weeks (one set for things being open, one for if they’re shut) plus a definite statement of intent to order Crosstown doughnuts with which to celebrate, even if that celebration goes no further than TV in my dressing gown. This may be no bad thing, since after three post-Christmas weeks of the leftover chocolate and Pringles diet, the dressing gown will likely be the only thing that still fits.

To actual details then, and whilst the above might suggest otherwise, I’ll be here as usual and available in an appropriately limited capacity for the foreseeable future; previous visitors will be prioritised, but all sensible enquiries are welcomed! If that sounds as if my screening process will be lighter than usual, be assured that it isn’t and if you call or text without knowing my name (for example), you’ll still be politely and swiftly moved along before you’ve even noticed my hanging up. That hasn’t changed in over ten years and it isn’t changing now – it’s only three letters and if you can’t remember them I’ll have to assume that you will also struggle with simple instructions and directions, and therefore be extremely busy in a theatrically apologetic tone that will be just convincing enough for you to be not quite certain whether or not I’m taking the piss (I am definitely taking the piss).

With apologies again for skiving (why is it that the longer we do less, the less we wind up doing?), I’m starting the next draft right now while the oven warms up, the washer finishes spinning and the fifth series gets underway. After all, there is no situation – summer or winter – that I can think of which can’t be improved with homemade chilli, Steve Buscemi and some cornbread. Bring on whatever you’ve got, 2021! We’re not afraid of you.

So, more soon! Really really soon…

Monday, September 28th 2020
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rumours of my disappearance...
I know, but after spending the best part of five months sitting on my arse in front of one type of screen or another, the reopening of activities that demand engaging with the real world was moreish to say the least and I have been throwing myself back into them while we still had the last of the summer left. This is not including those days where the streets outside were so hot the only thing I threw myself into was the cool embrace of my fridge, which I did with the sort of abandon most people reserve for the receipt of lifechanging news. Thankfully I am now almost back at my fighting weight, give or take.

The exception to the screen avoidance has been the cinemas, after the gradual reopening of first the Genesis (where I had a pleasant walk up to see the fun/incomprehensible to anybody sober Tenet and was thrilled beyond all sensibility to find dark chocolate Bounty bars in a shop along the way), I caught a handful of favourites at the Picturehouse Central in town for the posh seats and at the start of the month the BFI, where I got stuck into the member-voted Classics strand with aplomb and went to see Jaws, Singing In The Rain, The Wizard Of Oz, Breakfast At Tiffanys and Pulp Fiction all inside a week – result! And that's all before the Prince Charles finally reopens on the 16th…

By way of a bonus, the weather is most definitely on the Autumn turn now after a bit of a false start and things are settling down nicely in general – the aircon is hopefully done with for the year, the boots, jumpers and scarves have been unearthed (and not a few new ones bought alongside a coat, sunglasses, a couple of hats and an umbrella), and after a fairly strictly enforced moritorium on the baking of anything until I could comfortably get back into my 28" jeans, the panic is over and both cookie and gingerbread doughs have retaken their rightful place in the fridge (dumplings will remain out of bounds for a week or two, suet being something of a gateway drug).

I have finally been to the Tates (Britain and Modern), had a long overdue eye test (two; both mostly useless, at least unaided), virtually inhaled a McDonald’s (with 50% off at Leicester Square) and also had fish and chips for the first time in many months courtesy of Poppies in Spitalfields, where I once bought chips and curry sauce after an evening at Rich Mix up the road and was impressed with both. I now know that the battered haddock is equally celestial, and therefore that it’s probably fortunate for the 28" jeans and everything else in the wardrobe that I’m not really in the habit of ordering takeaways.

More soon! As usual all are welcome (sort of), and I promise to update a little more conscientiously from now on, not least because it’s likely to be pissing down morning, noon and night for the foreseeable future according to the October forecast. Lovely.

Tuesday, July 14th 2020
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baby steps (and a few steps back)...
As things continue to pick up a bit and as much as traipsing up to Moorgate for a wander through the huge Finsbury Pavement shop will have done me lots of good, my favourite news of the week has been the long-awaited reopening of my neighbourhood M&S on Fenchurch Street for a hygienically wrapped croissant, some Greek yoghurt and a razz through the many yellow-stickered bargains, likely plentiful because not everyone has noticed the store has reopened yet. What little space there was in my freezer is no longer space.

My hairdresser was also on form last weekend and kitted out appropriately with plastic visors and sanitiser; thankfully tea was still available albeit in disposable cups and all involved were extremely pleasant and diplomatic about the haystack presented to them – I suspect they’ll have seen a lot worse by the time I write this but I was happy just to be able to get a comb through it without wincing, even if having somebody else wash my hair hadn’t been the most exciting thing I’d done for over three months (it was). It didn’t pour with rain on the walk back this time which was definitely a plus, and nobody destroyed my £35 blowdry the following morning either which was another one. Happy days.

I have visited Borough Market (and come away poorer in cash but rich in fresh baby squid and fancy tomatoes, amongst other things) and seen an Artistically Significant Wall, Leadenhall Market is starting to reopen and the City is gradually starting to look a bit more like I remember it for the month or so I was here before everything shut and everybody bogged off home.

Unfortunately the relaxing stroll around Sky Garden I had been looking forward to was something of a disappointment after I managed to choose the only grey, overcast and thoroughly miserable day to visit, and with sitting in the seats now prohibited too I didn’t hang about after the picture-taking and went home for a pot of tea instead. It is only a two minute walk in all fairness and the weather is nobody’s fault – luckily the next set of free stuff on the itinerary thanks to an email from Tate announcing their reopening on the 27th is indoors. All visits are timed and must be prebooked, even for members. I have prebooked.

And speaking of prebooked – smoothly done, I know – I’ll reiterate that since I’m taking fewer bookings and spacing them further apart, if you have a pretty narrow time in mind it’s currently useful to have as much warning as possible; I do mean hours, not days (or God forbid, weeks). This is purely because of the extra cleaning logistics (and not because I’ve suddenly decided to take two hours getting ready for bookings, or whatever) and applies to everybody who hasn’t been before; if it isn’t convenient to call, text and we can get to the confirming later. There is no situation at the moment when I will be available ‘in the next half hour’, and rarely is there ever. At least an hours’ notice, please.

More soon! I have a peanut butter and banana crumpet planned, and it won’t eat itself.

Tuesday, June 30th 2020
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what the world is waiting for...
And an apology for those who were wanting to book towards the back end of last week, but even with an air-conditioned flat (thank God) the weather called a halt to doing anything but the bare minimum workwise in favour of getting outdoors to walk around in flip flops complaining about the heat.

In the meantime, the call I have been waiting for has finally come – admittedly not the one from the useless thundercunts at Santander about the bounceback loan I applied for some eight weeks ago so I could ‘quickly access emergency cash to support my business via a simple online form’ – but my hairdresser! My last visit was in mid-February so while it’s not a complete trainwreck, it’s definitely a matter of some urgency after last week’s sun especially and whilst I’ve managed the barnet as best I could, the relief is almost chewable. Given that my first visit in April 2019 took me fifteen years to work up to, nobody was more surprised than me that when the call finally came, the appointment was booked and the waiting started I was practically incoherent with joy, and I’m even looking forward to the walk up to Brick Lane on Saturday.

The news does mean that I’ll be in London for another weekend and it seems only right and proper that some side-plans be made; a list of things that are running out has been composed (and fingers crossed that Deciem is open), an itinerary planned (ditto Rokit Vintage, source of the very nice pink floral face mask I have for travelling now it’s too hot for my homemade-pyjama one) and various menus are being mulled over – Beigel Bake and the street food at Brick Lane Market are both looking likely assuming that sitting in the food hall with Kung Po chicken is on the approved list (and if it isn’t, there’s always the park after the graffiti alley). This is likely to be my last weekend in town for a while too, so anybody who may been tentatively planning a Saturday visit, now is the time to do it.

The settling-back-down continues apace, and with the news that FrightFest has been moved to October I can stop panicking about stumping up for a pass next weekend; Dead By Dawn has also jumped back to November necessitating another Edinburgh trip before Christmas – it’s a long way off, but a bit of forward planning never hurts and given that the London Film Festival ought to hopefully run to schedule, the Autumn onwards looks very promising indeed. Even Christmas is being tentatively planned, but admittedly more for something fun to think about for a change (likewise no concrete reopening date from the Prince Charles Cinema as yet, but I have no doubt they’ll be on the way).

So getting back to the present, I will be in London as usual until Friday week and then back home to have another try at a few hours on the beach after being thwarted this last weekend by thunder, lightening and pouring rain from pretty much an hour or so after I got back; since I forgot to bring my Factor 50 back with me it’s probably for the best. The cycle path work here in the City (and likely everywhere else in town) is cracking on relentlessly, and whilst like so many things it’ll be lovely when it’s finished, the buses are stuffed. Do let me know if you’re using public transport to get here as the one way system between Monument and Bank is another rare delight at the moment if you’re planning on braving the Northern Line after you leave - as ever, there are ways (cycles!)

Anyone who fancies getting in while my hair is still touchable would be well advised to do so in the next few days – I can’t guarantee your continued wellbeing if you maul it after the weekend. Fortunately mauling-wise, the rest of me is still here (and doesn't mind at all).

More soon…

Wednesday, June 17th 2020
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all work and no play...
I’m (finally) back! And what a relief it is, even if it has meant needing to get out of bed before midday.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks and lovely to see some friendly faces unadorned by masks – as somebody who takes lipreading for granted every time I’m called upon to function anywhere with more background noise than someone reading a newspaper, the last few weeks have been something of a challenge (and since it’s one I don’t have a hope of winning, a pad and pen has been added to my essential going out kit alongside the handgel, lip balm and emergency spork - you never know your luck).

The sunshine has allowed me to make the most of the low-key return and sticking to a handful of bookings means that once the cleaning is out of the way I’ve been taking my time to enjoy the weather and get some exercise, as well as a couple of (carefully planned – not much water) packed lunches with a book on the grass over by Tower Bridge prior to an exciting walk back by way of Waitrose and a few Pokémon battles around Fenchurch Street. I have also spent a couple of afternoons poking around the back streets looking for Sculpture in the City, culminating in a quiet half hour on the (currently deserted) steps of St Paul’s with the Evening Standard. Very pleasant indeed.

I have also been making a few lists of local places to spend some money as soon as I have any spare, not least my hairdresser and myriad local cafés, but also the spa up the road; a proper massage is almost as close to the top of my list as a Big Mac and a sauna isn’t far behind it. Researching also took me back for the first time in ages to Patty and Bun, whose peanut butter choc ices and rosemary salted fat chips were at least in part responsible for my grudging first sign up to WeightWatchers back in the day (although not the subsequent ones which were due to circumstances entirely of my own making, or at least the scones, cakes and bread were) and I will be on my way over asap; while shopping isn’t an interest of mine, having been out and seen the sea of shiny new carrier bags I doubt my presence will be missed, and it was heartwarming to witness a bit of rampant consumerism for the first time in months.

As things gradually drift back to normal and the countdown to the reopening of hairdressers and cinemas continues I will be getting back – one step at a time – to my previous daily and weekly routines, starting with the coming weekend when King’s Cross station is predictably and reassuringly closed again for the East Coast engineering works; this means I will be in London for the duration thanks to all the trains being cancelled and so into next week – yay! It also means some rare availability on a Saturday (for possibly the last time in a few weeks) followed by Deliveroo, a rental film from Google Play and maybe a go on one of the Santander bikes from round the corner.

Sunday remains off limits as ever, but I’ll do my best to accommodate more visitors provided everybody is well spaced out – the steady trickle of local folk returning to work is getting steadier by the day, and a shortcut through to a Pokémon raid at the Gherkin around 5.30pm yesterday revealed a surprisingly average number of folk standing around the fringes of Leadenhall Market having a post-work beer, at least it surprised me to the extent that the sight of multiple people standing in groups was more unsettling than the tumbleweed streets of a couple of months ago, and I practically sprinted the last bit.

Well, the final hours of my free 30 day Prime trial are ticking away, and the box sets won’t watch themselves. Availability is still limited given the extra-careful cleaning and laundry, but everything is ticking over fine - the phone is back on as usual. Roll on July!

More soon…


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