As April came, so did an early summer, and with it droves of sun worshipers. Trinity Square Gardens and More London were full of sun bathers and picnickers as I walked home and we even managed a lunch break picnic in the grounds of Kings (although I had to drape everyone’s cardigans over me to stop me from burning!). And with lighter and warmer evenings coming in we were less inclined to spend them cooped up in the flat so off we dawdled down to the river with a bottle of chilled rose and sat in Wapping watching the sun come down, with Tower Bridge as our rather impressive backdrop.
And not wishing to miss the sunny opportunity, we headed off the following weekend around the City (not venturing more than five minutes radius from the flat though, but walking for hours nonetheless!) with our cameras and a packed lunch. First we climbed the Monument which I’ve been meaning to do for years. There are 311 steps to the viewing gallery at the top of Christopher Wren’s 200 ft Doric Column, but it was worth the climb for the views underneath the gilded urn of fire it’s topped with. Although it’s surrounded by mesh to stop you falling off / throwing things down like at the top tier of the Eiffel Tower, you get an amazing 360 view of London and you can poke your camera lens out of the mesh anyway! We enjoyed working out where the flat is and spent time gazing at the yet-to-be-finished Shard over the other side of the river. My Diana loved it up there too and the header image for Pretty Pretentious was actually taken up there on 120mm film….I love the colour and the graininess which of course I didn’t get on the digital photos. To cap it all off, when we got back down (you come back by the same steps so it’s a bit of a struggle passing everyone, like in the bell tower in Florence and the city walls in Sienna) we got A CERTIFICATE!
Having rested at the foot of the Monument with our picnic (and there met the most adorable little dog!) we went on for our next adventure….. I’d heard there was a sort of secret garden near to Monument and over the road from Old Billingsgate (we do a lot of events there and a colleague had mentioned she’d had a picnic there). So around the corner we found St Dunstan’s In The East, a ruined church and now the most idyllic public gardens. You’ll be able to see from the number of photos I took on both film and in digital on the Flikr links below, but I absolutely adore the place. There are fig trees, palms, fountains, fragrantly filled planters, climbers and even an ‘insect hotel’. In the knave which has no roof at all after the church was partly destroyed during the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, the garden is one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever found. I could have sat there for the rest of the day easily.
But then of course we had the rest of the city to discover and photograph, and it was on to the Lloyd’s Building next. Adam hadn’t been before so I took great delight in showing him one of my favourite pieces of architecture. I spent ages taking shots staring up at its weird exterior conduits and pipes, and then of its reflection in the adjacent building. More fun still was lying down on the nearby St Mary Axe looking up at the Gherkin, taking fish-eye shots with Diana. Passing tourists were fairly confused but of course that just added to the fun.
Next it was a walk down Cornhill towards Bank (finding an amazing church on the way, called St Michael’s, set back from the road hidden in between the offices and shops, but great for close up photos) and some photos around the Royal Exchange (not to mention a snoop around Lulu Guinness, Pretty Ballerinas and Jo Malone!). And that was about as much as we could muster for the day really….although the last leg home found us a moment of magic in a stray balloon….. A solitary green balloon was just caught in the railings around the corner form the flat, and kept catching the breeze so it looked as though it had a little personality or something. It was like our very own Red Balloon (gorgeous film….you must see) as Adam and I chased it along the road taking photos and playing with our shadows against it. Until of course it popped.
Finally over the grief of the popped balloon, we went to dinner at Hix at the Albermarle that evening. Not really for any reason other than perhaps it was too warm to bother cooking and we wanted to dress up a little. The place is stylish in a linen with neon kind of way….it’s a cool hotel but you don’t feel like you have to be trendy to be there and it has just enough of the traditional touches. My starter was a salad (well of course, it was the start of ‘summer’ after all) of Chicory, Asparagus and Quail Eggs…the latter being plentiful and superbly soft boiled. After that for me it was Sea Trout with Mussels and a rather naughty Mashed Potato (well, I’d just had salad hadn’t I?!). For pudding we had the same….Seabuckthorn Trinity Burnt Cream….and impressed I certainly was. Not least because they did the right thing in calling it Trinity Burnt Cream rather than crème Brulee (we are British after all, and I’m tired of going to places which apparently pride themselves on their British food but then name half their dishes after their French counterparts), but also because the service team could tell us in so much detail about all of the ingredients….my only experience of Seabuckthorn is in that amazing Weleda hand cream so naturally I needed to ask what on earth it was doing in a dessert, and our waitress went on to tell me exactly where it came from, its characteristics, flavour, texture, the lot. Brilliant. Our sommelier was top notch too, and the cocktails lovely. And our Poire William truffles with the coffee were the end to a practically faultless meal.
Viewing in April was fairly action packed, beginning with Source Code. Whilst I can’t deny it was the lovely Jake Gyllenhaal that had my interest and in fact got me to the cinema in the first place, the not overly original plot, did keep me engaged with its fast pace and absorbing detail. Playing on some of the concepts we see in Inception and Moon, the action centers on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Of course there is a twist though, and a make-you-think ‘moral’ that doesn’t quite give you the happy ending you might want, but is probably the better for it.
Twists and almost-but-not-quite happy endings continued with April’s next film, in Thor. It took me a while to convince Adam to go, but Natalie Portman I think sealed the deal. The totally shameless trashiness was somewhat buffeted for me by the fairly (I think) accurate Norse Mythology, but in honesty I was quite happy with the over-the-top action and special effects. We’re left with a satisfying twist and a nice open ending which promises the comic book fanatics a link up with some other super hero friends for an almighty fantasy action epic. Can’t wait.
Work wise in April it was all about preparing for an unusually busy May, but we did manage to skip out of the office to RSVP to see MD Claire give a talk on all those finer details and fun bits we pride ourselves on. Having cheered her on though, we managed to spare just enough time before dashing back to the office to try a few of the new services on show…..an ice cream parlour here, a cupcake station there….hard work. And the hard work continued as we cheered on colleague Sarah as she took on the London Marathon, spectacularly dressed up of course, head to toe in fuchsia with feathers, glitter and sequins! But really it was peach that was floating our boat as spring sprung, as my obsession to find the perfect peach nail polish took over (see my blog link below).
Easter took us, as tradition dictates, to Nottingham where we meet with a big bunch of folks for fun, drinking and football, all under the pretense of something called Join Me (I’ll have to tell that story in a whole other post, too long). The weekend afforded us some light shopping, lots of pub grub, and plenty of good company. After a day spent catching up at the pubs along the canal, we adjured as usual to the famed Cookie Club where we danced like crazies to cheesy ‘alternative’ music whilst trying to stay awake with vodka red bulls (well it had been a long day!). The morning after and it was a Full English we needed before braving an almost unbearably hot sun to watch the boys in their annual North vs South football match. Despite their enthusiasm, it was more of a kick around this year, and we’d hardly finished our ice creams before the whistle was blown and we headed back into town. But we weren’t too disappointed to make an early finish as this left of plenty of time to enjoy the real ale festival at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. A darling old inn (which indeed purports to be England’s oldest pub, dating back to 1189AD), set right at the foot of the old castle, it’s by far my most favourite place to sit and drink in Nottingham. And so we did, for the rest of the afternoon, with excellent company, wonderful ales (in lovely little half pint tankards) and glorious sun.
The month came to an end with a weekend in Hitchin to celebrate birthdays and weddings of Adam’s friends. Claudine and Mark had recently been married in Jamaica, and so had planned a big get together in Hitchin for family and friends, complete with a family-made Jamaican and French style buffet. We were totally fussed upon by their mums and aunts who were desperate to feed us all up on their signature dishes (Goat Curry, Beef in wine stew, Spicy fish cakes, rice and peas….), and we were only too happy to be spoiled by them.
Next was karaoke in honour of Martin and Rachel’s birthdays. Thankfully a private room had been arranged, so embarrassment was kept within our small circle, which after a few cocktails was just as well. The climatic performance had to have been Martin’s epic rendition of Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden, including several minutes of (air) guitar solo. Less impressive was Jamie’s attempt at a rockstar-esque scene as he thrust his microphone into an ice bucket, rendering it useless. Not cool.
But the real highlight of the month for me was the Royal Wedding. I’d been looking forward to it with so much excitement….bothering Adam to buy commemorative tea towels….checking out Jason’s sticker collection (now complete I believe!)….and following all the media hype on the dress and associated gossip. By the time the big day arrived I could hardly contain myself and felt almost as though I had some kind of involvement in it. I still can’t believe I wasn’t invited (obviously an oversight). Despite Adam’s protests and my concerns that being at Adam’s parents’ house would mean I wouldn’t get to watch it live, the BBC coverage ended up on the TV and we settled down to watch it. Before long, the build up footage got too much to bear for Adam and he began to write a bile-filled blog about how ridiculous it all was (link to his epic diatribe below). I though was engrossed in every detail and began a sort of stream-of-consciousness on Twitter (I think perhaps if my phone weren’t a touch screen I’d have broken the hash key that day).
After hours of interviews and teasing, we finally got word that Kate was about to emerge from the Goring and I edged even closer to the end of the sofa. As she stepped out and we caught the first glimpse of her though, it wasn’t her dress, the veil or the borrowed tiara that sent me reeling…. her pretty bouquet of Myrtle, Sweet William, Hyacinth, Ivy and LILY OF THE VALLEY made me jump right out of my seat in some kind of rage as I sqwarked ‘but that’s *MY* bouquet!’ It’s true of course that there is nothing terribly different about an all white bouquet full of blooms chosen for their meaning, and of course there is nothing to stop me from having my wedding bouquet still made up of one of the flowers Princess Catherine had in hers, but for just a moment there my future bridezilla well and truly reared her head in an embarrassing display of materialistic spoiled brattishness. And in front of Adam’s mum too. Not cool.
Diana in the City……
Diana’s secret garden……
St. Dunstan in the East…..
The Red Balloon……
Hix at the Albermarle……
Peachy Perfect Blog……
Adam’s royal wedding blog……
Favourite hotels blog……