Since I saw you last….

Yes, I know that’s a Gary Barlow song. And no, I won’t apologise for the ear worm.

Anyways! Hello! Long time! It’s been a seriously busy few months, and possibly the most momentous time ever for me. So, without further ado, here’s a whistle stop tour of what I’ve been up to…..

April was really all about wedding prep….making favours, up-cycling furniture for the reception, and oh, you know, making my wedding dress! Just as everyone always says it does, the wedding came round so fast and there was some frantic organising done in those last few weeks! We did manage to fit in some fun and relaxation though, and on the last weekend in April we hosted our joint Hen and Stag do!

Wedding Crafting

Wedding Crafting

Neither of us was terribly keen on doing separate Hen and Stag parties, and whilst we initially intended not to bother at all, when we hatched an idea to do them together we thought it’d be fun. We booked our fabulous dance teachers (Modern Jive World Champions!) Lee and Dawn to teach a bunch of us for a few hours in a local hall. It was great to have lots of friends meet each other for the first time, and the dancing was a brilliant ice breaker as we had to keep swapping partners throughout the class. Even the hounds came along and dressed up for the occasion too! By the end of it we were all pretty good at the little routine, which we vowed to practise and use at the wedding reception a few weeks later.

007 Cooper

007 Cooper

Rock n Roll Digby

Rock n Roll Digby

Afterwards we met up with more friends and had a yummy meal at our favourite Hitchin curry house (they do awesome veggie dishes), then made our way to one of our favourite bars in town to drink lots and lots of cocktails. We love the little Music Room at the back of the old Corn Exchange on the market square, and we have to admit that Pitcher and Piano have done a grand job with the place….not to mention their cocktails.

The morning after we were in need of some serious calories, so a bunch of us headed to The Groundworks for breakfast (the chorizo omlette the most popular) before everyone made their way back home and we began the final preparations for the wedding the following weekend!

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

Espresso and chocolate crepe at Just Desserts

During the week running up to the wedding I was also treated to a night out with my colleagues. We met just around the corner at Just Desserts, which as the name suggests, only serves puddings! We all toasted with fizzy and ate large amounts of waffles, crepes and sundaes, before I headed home wearing a flashing ‘Bride to Be’ sash and with a big bunch of cute balloons.

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower garms

Bridal shower balloons

Bridal shower balloons

So next of course, we got married! I’ll leave off all the details and photos for now as I’ll write about all that separately. Suffice to say, we had the most amazing time ever though! We actually did the ceremony bit in Greenwich on the 3rd of May, then followed up with the reception on the 24th…..we like to drag things out! Anyway, it was the most wonderful excuse to spend time and have lots of fun with our nearest and dearest, so I’ll look forward to sharing more soon. Here’s one sneak peek of a photo for now though!…..

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

Me and him on our wedding day in Greenwich

In between the ceremony day and the reception, we were super busy getting things ready for the big party. Adam finished work a couple of days before the wedding, so he had a few weeks to help me out with the huge amount of craft and DIY projects we had planned. We did make time for a few dates though, and it was lovely to enjoy his time off with some cocktails and meals out. We discovered (after way too long!) that the Hermitage Road Restaurant, which is just a few minutes walk from us, serves some seriously good cocktails, and we also enjoyed an amazing Thai meal at Sukawatee opposite.

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

My Husband and a rather yummy cocktail in a tin mug

We had another week between the wedding reception and going on honeymoon, which we used in part to recover from the party! We both came down with colds, which was a real drag and stopped us from doing all the sorting we’d planned. The house looked like a party supplier had exploded in it, with excess furniture cluttering up the place, and various random things hanging around such as small wooden windmills, boxes of jam jars and copious amounts of left over booze. We did however enjoy spending time going through all our cards and messages, opening gifts, reading the recipes people had given us (we asked for these instead of having a gift registry) and laughing at all the photo booth pictures. We were so very ready for our holiday by the time we set off for the airport though….we’ve not had a proper sunny summer holiday for years and couldn’t wait to relax by the pool!

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

Waiting for our second flight of three to our honeymoon destination

After thirty hours of travelling (eeep!) we were finally welcomed to our stunning hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali. The relief as we sunk into the huge sofa in the air conditioned club room was immense, and the yummy cold cocktails and gifts we were brought made us start to think it had all been worth it. After checking in, we went to our room to find yet more gifts, and un-packed as we awaited our room service supper before crashing into bed. The time difference and the flights had all happily made it so that we could fall asleep at our usual bed time, bang on bed time in Bali….although that said, we were still rather lazy in the morning and didn’t get to breakfast until pretty late! We spent the day eating, drinking cocktails and exploring the resort….nicely settling in to the incredible weather and the laid back vibe.

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

Pretty much my view for most of the holiday

Again, hopefully I’ll write in more detail about our trip….we did quite a few activities and excursions (not to mention three trips to the amazing spa!) so there’s lots to write, and stacks of photos too. We totally fell in love with Bali though, and would really recommend it for a holiday….the weather is spot on, the people are delightful and the food is terrific! In the mean time, here’s a few of my iPhone snaps to show you some of the highlights…..

The view from our lovely room

The view from our lovely room

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

Room service breakfast on the morning of one of our excursions

Our trip to a coffee and spice plantation, including an awesome coffee tasting with a view to die for

Our trip to a coffee and spice plantation, including an awesome coffee tasting with a view to die for

We saw lots of traditional, local dances, including a wonderful fire dance performance

We saw lots of traditional, local dances, including a wonderful fire dance performance

I LOVED meeting a whole lot of monkeys on one of our outings!

I LOVED meeting a whole lot of monkeys on one of our outings!

We were in Bali for two weeks and loved every minute of it. We did miss the dogs terribly though (my Mum looked after them for the first week, Adam’s Mum for the second) and so were ready to come home to see them. They were a sight for sore eyes when we got home after another thirty hour journey, and their reaction to our return was wonderful. They’d been a little spoiled whilst we were away, with lie-ins in the grown up beds and endless sofa time cuddles, but they were still very pleased to see us and seeing them made parting with Bali all the more bearable!

Adam had a full week off after our return, which was a real treat. We made the most of it and planned lots of meet ups and outings and things….all of which was made even better by the fabulous weather we came home to! By a happy coincidence a bunch of our friends had the Friday of that week off, so we met up in a local park for a picnic. We made up a load of Pimm’s with ginger ale and got a stack of yummy treats from M&S, which we scoffed whilst sitting in the gorgeous sun. It was so nice to come home to such great weather after being so spoiled on holiday, and better still to be able to spend time outdoors with friends.

Picnic Pimm's

Picnic Pimm’s

The indulgences continued as we met friends again for afternoon treats at Just Desserts…..it was lovely enough to sit out in the garden there as we ate delicious sundaes, waffles and crepes.

Just Desserts crew

Just Desserts crew

Then on the Sunday we celebrated my birthday. Adam made me breakfast to have out in the garden, which was just lovely, and I had a whole lot of wonderful birthday cards and gifts to open too.

Birthday breakfast in the garden

Birthday breakfast in the garden

Later we went out for an amazing Sunday roast lunch at The a Black Horse at Ireland….I had their seriously good roast chicken followed by an incredible poached peach dessert which came with a slice of courgette loaf and a stunning coconut panna cotta!

Black Horse birthday pudding

Black Horse birthday pudding

Our first proper day out was to Wimpole Hall, which is a stunning National Trust property about half an hour away. We took the dogs with us and explored the extensive grounds with them first….they love adventuring in new places and the walk was a lovely change to our usual haunts.

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

The hounds discover a Gothic folly

We dropped the dogs back off at the car for a bit whilst we went to look around the gardens, then had a picnic lunch at the car to check on them. Then it was into the house to see all the incredible interiors and chat to the super knowledgeable volunteers in each room. We came away dreaming of a house with a library like the one there, and I know I certainly coveted more than a few of the incredible ornaments all over the place!

After a final check on the dogs, we went to see the charming home farm where we met some darling little piglets, then stopped in at the impressive walled garden before doing a spot of shopping on the way out…. I treated myself to one of their gorgeous picnic blankets made from oddments of yarn, and Adam splurged on some yummy wines and raspberry curd.

Wimpole Hall really is worth a visit if you’re in the area….there’s easily a full day’s worth of things to do there, and they even put on outdoor theatre events in the summer which I bet are worth checking out.

The library at Wimpole Hall

The library at Wimpole Hall

As our second little day trip we decided to drive to Ampthill, in search of the wonderful antiques emporium there. I’d never been to the sweet little market town before, and was delighted to to find that the emporium was even larger and grander than I’d thought! Spread over three floors are stacks of treasures, from old shop fittings and stunning lamps, to rocking horses and vintage clothing. Some of the furniture is just incredible, and there are lots of collectables to root through too. I fell in love with a very old and shabby rocking donkey, who I’d have loved to have taken home to revamp, but with a house fit to burst after all the wedding additions I left without him. I did treat myself to a beautiful silk scarf though, in my current favourite colours of coral and spearmint.

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

The Ampthill Antiques Emporium

Afterward we found a darling little tea room called Cakestand and Crumb, where we had delicious sandwiches and seriously yummy cake to follow. Everything in there is super cute and chintzy, and I just adored the vintage record player and the lovely old tunes it put out.

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

Me in my new scarf at Cupcake and Crumb

There was still more to look forward to as our amazing wedding photographer Sharon delivered our wedding pictures! They were all wrapped up beautifully with local lavender and lots of other little gifts in a darling linen bag Sharon had made! We just loved going through them all and couldn’t be more grateful for all of Sharon’s hard work….she really goes above and beyond!

Wedding photo package

Wedding photo package

Sharon also featured one of our wedding shots in a local exhibition for the Humanitas charity, which took place in the barn at The George in Hitchin. The theme was ‘Imagining Animals’ and her photo of Adam in a giant panda head, with our guests around us in panda masks looked great amongst all the other wonderful local artwork.

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Exhibitionists!

Soon though it was time to get back to work, although I softened the blow by treating myself to a new pair of shoes to wear to the office….I’d been eying up the silver and white Hamble brogues from Clarkes and when they came into the sale I had to have them (I’d love the Taupe version for winter next!).

Back to school shoes

Back to school shoes

We also had to set to work on finding a new place to live, as we have to move out of our house in Hitchin! We opted to make the move up to West Yorkshire a couple of years earlier than planned, and after a huge amount of faffing, to-ing and fro-ing we finally found a place in Otley. The next job of course was to pack….a job which has filled most of our time since, and is still very much on-going! We’ve loved the fine weather though….it seems a real treat to have had a ‘proper summer’ and to get to wear summery dresses and whatnot. The dogs have enjoyed it too, with lots of paddles in the river and even their very first ice lollies!

Cooper's first blueberry ice lolly!

Cooper’s first blueberry ice lolly!

We spent one lovely sunny weekend with friends Dan and Brigitte, who came for an overnight visit. We took them to The Groundworks for their ‘Late Night Sessions’ cocktail night, which was a great way to spend a hot evening! I especially enjoyed the Gabriella cocktail which came with a rocket lolly dunked in it!

Late Night Sessions at The Grounworks

Late Night Sessions at The Groundworks

Another lush Saturday was spent at my dear friend Claire’s home for her Bridal Shower. Fellow bridesmaid Eileen hosted the Parisian themed afternoon, and I helped with chintzy china and bunting. I ate far too many macaroons and drank far too much fizz, but we had a lovely time playing games and chatting!

Parisian Bridal Shower

Parisian Bridal Shower

And because the last few months have been all about utter indulgence, we took a trip to a favourite local Italian restaurant in Letchworth, where we scoffed yummy pasta before heading to Hitchin Lavender to take some sunset photos. It really is stunning there, and it was lovely to go at ‘golden hour’.

Hannah in the lavender

Hannah in the lavender

Our next fun day out was into London for a very early Christmas present from me to Adam! I booked us onto a speciality whisky, bourbon and rye cocktail making masterclass at 69 Colebrooke Row, and we had an amazing time learning some new recipes and perfecting some old favourites. We also used the opportunity to scoff Fro Yo and drink Taro bubble tea whilst in Islington, as well as having a wander round the flea market.

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

Adam mixing with the pros at 69 Colebrooke Row

We’ve been celebrating another amazing year for soft fruits, and harvested a bumper crop from our greengage tree. I made kilos of jam, a greengage and vanilla tart, and still had plenty left over to eat on their own! The garden has suffered somewhat due to my busyness, and is looking rather over grown! It has had a bit of TLC in the last week or so though, and there are lots of plants I want to dig up to take with us!

Ready to jam

Ready to jam

On Friday I travelled into London to meet my lovely friend Jo and her adorable one year old, Teddy. We had a good mosey along the Southbank (I loved the carnival performance in the Clore Ballroom with steel drums, brass band and dancers in neon pink tutu wigs!) before a gorgeous lunch at the Tate Modern. We walked back along the North bank together, then I was off to church at Aldwych for a wedding rehearsal! I had the honour of being Bridesmaid at Claire and Matthew’s wedding, and it was great to have chance to catch up with folk before the big day, not to mention getting some tips from Rev David on walking down the aisle in high heels, and drinking gin fizz afterwards!

Carnival fun

Carnival fun

Then yesterday was the big day itself! I travelled to Leyton to get ready with Claire and the other Bridesmaids….having a good cry when I buttoned her into her stunning dress and saw how utterly gorgeous she looked! We then travelled into town for the lovely ceremony (I loved singing the hymns and managed my role as veil monitor without disaster!) before heading to North London to the pretty cricket pavilion and marquee where the reception took place. The day was filled with fun and merriment, and all passed by so fast, but it was such a delight to be part of Claire and Matthew’s day.

Bridesmaids on the move

Bridesmaids on the move

Badger wedding cake

Badger wedding cake

We had our good friends Craig and Shelley stay over after the wedding, so this morning saw a lie in for me followed by lots of tea and chatting. They will actually be very near to us when we move so we packed them off with some of our more delicate cargo (the precious contents of Adam’s well stocked bar as well as some of my house plants!) and then the rest of the day has been about walking the dogs and lounging about.

This week will see a packing frenzy ahead of our big move next week…..I’m so excited to be in our new home town, but the thought of getting everything up there is rather a frightening one! Wish me luck as I bubble wrap and tape gun my way through all our junk! I’ll be sure to update you at the other end, but ta-tah for now!

Ems x

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A sunny Saturday out…. in Instagram

I’ve had such a wonderful day! We decided to take the opportunity of a quiet weekend to go on the London Egg Hunt, so we’ve been wandering about for hours with our cameras in the sun. The weather made it especially wonderful…. we have lots of blue sky shots and didn’t need to wear a jacket at all! In fact, sat in Green Park I even took off my cardi to reveal my shoulders for the first time this year!

I’ve taken so many photos today and lots of Instagram shots, so I thought I’d share!

We started our adventure by catching the bus into town……

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….and soon began finding eggs around Covent Garden….. this one may have been my favourite with all the cutesy characters on it…..

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We wandered through Covent Garden and up to Seven Dials, where we found more eggs, the London Graphic Centre yard sale, and a brilliant bead stall…..

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Having stopped in at Maoz in Soho for lunch, we passed this wonderful window on our way to get Gelato for Adam…..

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My pudding was Bubble Tea from Bubbleology…. Matcha tea with tapioca pearls…. lush!…..

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From Soho we ambled along Piccadilly in the now gloriously warm sun, and into Green Park for a sit down…..

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….and then into St Jame’s Park where we took a lovely stroll around the blossom-lined lake…..

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We found the National Police Memorial at the end of the Mall which looks stunning in the setting sun…..

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…..and then it was through the arches……

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….. and into Trafalgar Square…..

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We found a couple more eggs and also went to look at the new sculpture on the fourth plinth…..

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….before tiredly heading over to the bus stop, where we picked up our Routemaster home (grabbing the front seats too!)……

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Passing the Royal Courts of Justice…..

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….along Fleet Street…..

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…. on to St Paul’s……

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….up to Bank…..

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….past the Bank of England and Royal Exchange…..

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….. and on diversion past the Monument….

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….onto Lower Thames Street for a glimpse of the Shard…..

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….and HMS Belfast……

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….before our stop at the Tower of London…..

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We finished the outing with a quick stop into the pub…..

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And now we’re home!

I think the evening will see us relaxing on the sofa with many cups of tea, and at most probably uploading our photos of the day onto Flikr.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this sunny Saturday!

Ems x

Splendid Snowy Sunday

It’s taken us ages to find a free day to meet up with our friends Siobhan and Matthew, but finally today we managed a whole Sunday together. As they live in South East London (near to my old stomping ground) we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Observatory, as well as have a snoop around the market.

Having managed to get out of bed at a reasonable hour (considering it was Sunday), we decided to head off a little earlier than planned to take some photos on our walk through Greenwich to meet them. The snow slowed us down a little with signal failure at our DLR stop, but we managed the walk to the next one along thanks to my very snug sheepskin coat, Alpaca socks and my trusty Hunter boots. Once in Greenwich, we began our wander through the Old Royal Naval College, snapping the various scenes we’ve seen in so many of the Dickens series. On our way, we found a temporary structure on the King Charles Lawn, beside which was what looked to be a miniature jousting area, marked out by bunting and several yurts. It rather looked like we’d missed something, so we carried on to the gorgeous Painted Hall for some snaps.

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Outside, a team from the Council were busy shoveling the snow from the central pathway, which seemed an odd length to go to in such a place. But they provided a great subject for our snowy photos, with the Queen’s House and Observatory behind.

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Next we headed over the road to the National Maritime Museum and around the beautiful Queen’s House where we began to hear the happy noises of the park as couples made snow angels and children threw snow balls. It was when we got into the park proper though that I got really excited to see everyone dashing around, over-joyed to be out in the snow. The squeals as people got playfully thunk-ed with snow balls, and the barks of over-excited dogs tearing around brought such a grin to my face…. the place was the noisiest I’d ever seen it and the atmosphere was genuinely joyful. I found myself bounding around squeaking with delight!

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On the large hills running down from the Observatory, dozens of people were sledging on beautiful traditional sleighs, stream-lined plastic sleds and even bits of cardboard and in one case an old door! Despite the slightly treacherous walk up the steep path to the top, everyone was having such a lovely time and it was so gorgeous to see everyone whisking down the slope in the opposite direction that we didn’t mind the hard going at all. And waiting at the top were our dear friends, commentating on which of the snow crafts were most effective and who was ‘winning’.

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So, all assembled, we headed straight inside the Observatory to see the exhibition. It’s been running for three years now and Adam and I have been to every one. It’s a short but well curated exhibition, and free to get in. When we first went I had no idea of the possibilities of astro-photography and what was achievable with such little specialist equipment. The images are always eye opening and awe inspiring, so we wouldn’t dream of missing it.

Entrants are asked to submit photos in several different categories: ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’, ‘People and Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’. There is also a prize for ‘Best Newcomer’ and this year they have added a new prize for photographs taken with a ‘Robotic Scope’. The Deep Space photographs always grab me, because of the surreal, seemingly computer generated quality in the colours and shapes captured. It’s incredible to think what is going on so far away from us, and how vividly someone can capture it. I especially loved Michael Sidonio’s Fighting Dragons of Ara, in which oily colours and patterns form a mind boggling amount of detail. This year, I also really enjoyed the People and Space photographs, and especially Jean-Baptiste Feldmann’s Hunting Moon in which the subject appears to be catching the moon in a net.

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Back out into the cold and we were ready for something to fill our tummys and warm us up, so Siobhan took us to Bianco right next to the Cutty Sark. Needing an instant warm-up, I ordered a Cappuccino which arrived quickly (thank goodness) and expertly made (in fact, one of the best I’ve had outside Italy and Monmouth). Adam and I decided to do our swapping trick, ordering the special pizza of the day and the baked gnocchi to share.The pizza was perfectly thin and crispy, very authentic, and well laden with its toppings of fresh tomato, mozzarella, Italian truffles and Parmesan. Even though it was pretty large, we demolished every tasty mouthful. The gnocchi too was delicious, baked in a tomato and basil sauce, and topped generously with toasted Parmesan.

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The cute cafe suffers somewhat from the noises of young families, and is a little over-cosy for my taste, but then its location and the quality of the food far outweighs these slight inconveniences.

Next, we were off into the wonderful covered market, where I’ve spent many, many hours but haven’t been for over a year. We used to go regularly when I only lived down the road, and things have changed a little bit now with new shops and stalls. The wonderful 360 Degrees Vintage clothing shop had us all rustling through busy rails of gorgeous treasures, and Adam picked up a stunning military coat with big pointy collar and shiny buttons. The food stalls are also far too tempting, even though we were stuffed from lunch, but we got away with only a small purchase of Maple Pecan flavoured coffee beans.

Just outside, we discovered an enchanting shop called Lush Designs, in which lamp shades, cushions, totes and cards are covered in delightful illustrations of animals, nature and architecture. The colours and lines feel almost 70s, whilst the application of the drawings feels very contemporary and we all quickly picked out our favourites and ‘wants’.

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It was soon time for another warm-me-up, so we hopped over to Bar du Musee for hot chocolates. After those and some more shopping (Siobhan picked up two beautiful dresses in Joy, where I also spied the gorgeous necklaces of Jenny and Jimbob) we began hearing rumours of a parade due to go through Greenwich at 5pm. Presuming this was a one-off thing to celebrate Greenwich being named a Royal Borough as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we decided to hang around to see it….with another hot drink, this time Chai Cafe Lattes and Spicy Mochas at The Organic Cafe.

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Before long though, it was time to try to find this rumored parade, and following the men in fluorescent vests and the cars at a stand-still, we marched back down to where we’d seen the temporary structure and bunting earlier (which also explained the snow shoveling), just in time to see the very front of the parade pass by. Just like in the park earlier, there was a proper party spirit as hundreds of people passed by with lanterns, some in Royal and historical themed costumes, but all loving the buzz of the parade. Several marching bands, troupes of cadets and a marvelously energetic band (who are you please?! the ones wearing all black with red sashes!) who had us all hopping about to the beat.

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The Royal Naval College had been lit up in bright pinks and purples, with a gobo of the Royal Borough’s Coat of Arms right at the top, and inside the tent adjacent, the brilliant Fat 45 warmed us all up dancing to their fabulous ’11 Piece Jump Jive Big Band’!

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By now though, we’d been out in the snowy chill for almost eight hours, and had become rather sleepy. So it was back to the DLR, farewells to our fellow adventurers, and home to snuggle on the sofa with a pot of Assam and a cosy Vetiver and Cardamon candle from White Company. What a splendid, snowy Sunday.

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We would all recommend the Astromony Photography exhibition, which runs for just one more week until the 12th February). The snow though, well who knows?!