Tuesday, 24 February 2009

He did it!

We woke at 5.00, bleary eyed (and not a little traumatised after watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the day before) we washed and dressed, ensured we had everything we needed and left the flat to emerge into the dark quiet streets of Brook Green. I love London early in the morning when the streets are quiet and nobody seems to be around. Shivering a little in the chilly calm morning air we made our way to the tube station but eeek it was closed! By bus it would take too long to get to Victoria and we would miss the train and the race! Suddenly very awake we made our way to the nearest hotel and thank goodness more or less straight away a taxi came along, orange light blazing in the darkness. Panic over we made our way to Clapham (the next stop after Victoria) and even managed to pick up our friends on the way. Perfect.

On the train we all started to flag so energy bars, bananas and water were hastily cosumed by the men and Mrs M and I dreamed of pain au chocolat's and mocha coffees at Brighton Station. I know, a complete chocolate overload but we'd done ever so well getting up so early! At Brighton, coffees and pastries in hand we found the hill down to the sea front. Yes a hill, not a little hill, a big one. This hill was part of the half marathon route and had definitely not been bargained for by the men whose training had consisted of running along the Thames and through central London completly on the flat.... hmmm.

Down on the sea front it was a hub of activity, admirable sporty people pinned numbers to their chests, tied nifty timing devices to their trainers and started warming up. Mrs M and I drank our mochas and ate our pastries...!

*Picture by me*

After some serious limbering up our men joined the throng behind the start line and Mrs M and I made our way along the course to our first cheering post. NB: it is very difficult to spot individuals at these things and it can make you go a bit cross eyed.

Brighton is quite a good route for supporters in that you can link up with the runners at several places as they loop round and round. At 8 miles we saw them again, first up was Mr F who was almost running with the elite athletes and then after a while Mr M appeared and then N! Yay they had made it more than half way. After successfully spotting the three of them we decided we deserved a cup of tea for all our hard work. Tea consumed we meandered around the lovely shopping lanes of Brighton until we spotted a jubilant looking runner with a silver cape and a participants goody bag. Ooops! We couldn't tell the men we'd missed their big finish because we'd been tea drinking and window shopping! As fast as our little legs would carry us we hurried to the finish. We'd missed Mr F by about 20 minutes as he'd come in in a fantastic 1 hour 40. But as Mr M and N passed the finish line we were there to cheer them along as if we'd been there all along - what good supportive ladies! They both completed the half marathon in just over 2 hours which I think is fantastic!

N was raising money for a school in Rwanda which his mother is heavily involved in supporting. They need a dormitary for the children to sleep in and N raised enough money to pay for half of the building work which is just amazing! Well done lovely!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Run Run As Fast As You Can

This weekend N is running his first half marathon down on the Brighton sea-front with some friends. He has been training in the snow and the rain and it is a massive achievement as although he is sporty and rowed in the first 8 at uni he's not a natural runner. Go for it lovely you will be fabulous!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Friday Picture

... Well a series of pictures really. By the inspired Walker Evans. In the late 1930s, photographer Walker Evans and writer James Agee collaborated on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a portrait of rural sharecroppers in the Deep South. While working on the book, they collaborated on a lesser known project: Many Are Called, a three-year study of travellers on the New York subway. Evans used a hidden camera, photographing unsuspecting passengers traveling around the city. These images invite us to ask questions about these strangers, their lives and personalities. Walker presents a cross-section of people who are unposed and anonymous, as a result, the images have a wonderful sense of directness. These images really speak to me as I love people watching. When I was travelling to work on the tube every day, I always used to observe and wonder. I think there is something about being in such close proximity with such a diverse group of strangers accompanied by the unwritten rule of non-interaction that makes you feel it is perfectly fine to be nosy and eavesdrop / stare in a way you would never do outside the confines of a metal cylinder!

Evans catches his subjects in typical subway behavior, deep in daydreams, or asleep or gazing off into space. I like the middle couple who stare back at him, suggesting that even without a visible camera he was intently observing his subjects but also was being observed back. As we are put in the position of photographer it feels like they are observing us too.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

My Favourite...

*Tea Photo by me*

  • Drink: tea / champagne - mmmmm I love both equally but due to financial constraint tea normally wins through!
  • Biscuit: specaloo - this is a throw back to my childhood - speculoo's are the main biscuit eaten in Belgium, at Christmas they make giant ones in the shape of Sint Nicolaas. I like the little thin ones you get with coffee.
  • Chocolate: chocolate mint truffles from M&S, yum yum yum - especially when eaten straight from the fridge (I know I know you aren't supposed to but then you aren't supposed to do a lot of things...) Move aside Charbonnel & Walker at £1.43 per little truffle (I have to say, beautiful packaging but awful chocolate).
  • Place: Ogmore Beach / St Donats Castle
  • Time: dusk
  • Entertainment: the theatre, there is absolutely nothing like watching a brilliant play, show or ballet (especially the Northern Ballet whom I love love love)
  • Holiday: exploring, I'm much more of an explorer than a relaxer. I don't mean up the Amazon or anything but I like to be able to wander and discover.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Go Wales!!

After a morning of togetherness, Saturday tea-time was spent watching England and Wales face off against each other in the rugby! Clearly I was supporting Wales and N England (although he was born and brought up in Bermuda, his family is English and they now live back in England).

A lot of emotion rides behind these games, historically there has been a lot of tension between the two countries, with Wales being annexed by England, the demise of the Welsh language and a great deal of mistreatment of the Welsh people by the English. As I say, this is all absolutely in the past, and with devolution, our own Senedd, and a resurgence of the Welsh language, a lot of the old tensions have subsided. Even so there's no team the Welsh like to beat more than the English! Especially in our national sport - rugby!

The one opportunity for this is the Six Nations Championship, which sees England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France all competing for the trophy. The Welsh team started the match as the favourites, and had the added bonus of playing on home turf in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. After a few rousing Welsh songs and the national anthems the match began. It soon emerged that things were not going to be as clear cut as everyone thought. England put in a good fight and at half time there was a feeling that it could go either way, but in the end Wales pulled through and were victorious! Go Wales!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Weekend

N arrived in Wales late on Friday night, just as I was finishing work. He was weary from a long day at work and then a three hour drive. I was tired from standing working in my studio. Suffice it to say our energy levels were not at their highest.

N and I do not have an excellent track history of Valentines day. We normally avoid doing anything on the day itself as restaurants are always so expensive and I hate the idea of sitting in a restaurant full of couples, all trying desperately to achieve the perfect 'romantic' evening. I'm not sure romance works like that. So apart from one year, many moons ago, when I was working for the BBC and N surprised me by picking me up from the bus stop, we have never done the valentines thing. Last year for example, we went to the pictures and saw 'There Will Be Blood' - which admittedly may have been taking the anti-valentines stance a little far!

To compensate for last year, this year we made a plan, and booked a restaurant for lunch. But not just any restaurant. This restaurant is on my favourite stretch of coastline between my favourite two beaches Ogmore and Dunraven. I had heard such good things about it and its talented chef. We arrived at the restaurant a little early and so continued down the lane, along the beach road which plummets down to the sea.

I love this stretch of road, you do feel like you are clinging on to the land, floating above blue-grey expanse. At the bottom you park up your car and have three options: climb up the cliff for a gorgeous top-of-the-world ramble, continue up the white path to the ruins of Dunraven castle where we picnic in the summer, or clamber down over the pebbles to the beach. Short on time we decided on option three. I love a good clamber. Slipping and sliding over pebbles and shingles, picking your way carefully, gingerly, altering your course until you reach the sea.

Feeling invigorated and having worked up a bit of an appetite we made our way back to La Plie. What can I say about this place? Other than that it was amazing. It is run by an extremely young chef whose menu is adventurous and fantastically brave. Every single flavour combination just worked, every morsel we tasted was delicious. And what excellent value for money! Our three course lunch (which also included extra little appetisers) worked out at £20.00 each. I am so used to being palmed off with mediocre vegetarian options - oh how many mushroom risotto's I have consumed in my lifetime! But I started with squash three ways - a little cup of soup, a squash mousse and roasted squash seeds - yum yum yum. My main was a winter plate which was delicious and pudding, well I can hardly write about it without my mouth starting to water (and as a chef de patisserie I am super critical). I had a warm chocolate fondant (cooked to absolute perfection) with white chocolate ice cream and orange marmalade. Scrumdillyumptious! We were there for nearly three hours! What a lovely way to while away a lazy afternoon! I feel so passionately that there is such amazing talent out there, in every profession and that it should be supported and nurtured. Talking to the owner and chef, you could just tell how much he puts into the place and how much he gives of himself. I couldn't recommend it enough.

After lunch we made our way to Ogmore to walk off our dinner. It had turned into a gray hazy afternoon and the long beach just looked eerie and spectacular with little black silhouettes in the distance of walkers and their dogs. Gorgeous. This is it on a sunnier day:

Arriving home, a little cold but full of lovely delicious food. I walked into the house to find twelve beautiful red roses waiting for me. It was so lovely and an absolute first, as I have mentioned we have never really done the Valentines thing. They are downstairs in the kitchen now, resplendent in their velvety glory.

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Friday Picture

Well as tomorrow is Valentines day I thought it appropriate for the Friday Picture to be a bit romance related. Earlier this week I stumbled accross this amazing artist, Robert Ryan through Liberty, London. His work is fantastic - you can check it out here and buy it here. I love the black and white silhouettes in this Valentines Screen Print:

The text reads:

When I see you from across a crowded room my heart skips a beat when I get nearer to the place where I think you might be my heart starts to thump - will you be there? Will you be there? Will you be there? And then as if by a miracle, the clouds part and the sun pours out from behind a curtain of grey and suddenly you are there... my throat goes dry, my legs turn to jelly and even now as I write this my hands begin to tremble at merely the memory. I think you have a nice smile. I think you look kind. I don't want to be alone with my thoughts. Would you? Could you? Be my Valentine?

I must admit I have never sent an anonomous valentines card, ever. Have you?

Happy Valentines day for tomorrow!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ooh La La!

Lovely valentines things:

These cufflinks by Lucy Quartermaine are fab! You could give them to your fella and then borrow them every now and then yourself! I know that's not entirely the idea of giving but they are scrumptious!

Can't think of the right way to pop the question? These votives from Sage Inspired By Life could start the ball rolling!

Or the loveliest valentines thing of all - just give a plain old cwtch...

*Roman Holiday*

Friday, 6 February 2009

This Weekend....

This weekend is jam packed with:
  • Travelling up to London early today to go to N's cousin's 21st dinner (please work trains)
  • A Saturday lunch in a pub with an odd name with a big gaggle of girls from university days. I can't wait! We all studied English Lit together - one is now works for the Foreign Office (clearly some kind of spy), one is a journalist for the Telegraph, another is a University Lecturer compiling a book for publication on smell in literature, one is a drama teacher - and the others have equally exciting jobs and then there is me - cake maker ... hmmm!
  • Early Saturday evening drinks with N's work colleague who has just returned from getting married in New Zealand.  I haven't met any of his current fellow workers yet so I will have to be on my best behaviour (blimey!).  Afterwards we are meeting some friends, as one of them has a lovely new fella she would like us to meet - I think we are going dancing which will be fun as I can't remember the last time I went dancing! (Clear sign of impending old age)
  • Sunday N's parents are coming to the flat for lunch (NB I need to think of something for pudding) and then I am tootling off back to Wales. and back to my normally quiet existence!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Tea, Haircuts and Speculoo biscuits

I need to change my profile picture as I have been to the hairdressers today.  I went in thinking I'd have the same old highlights and a trim, looking forward to the tea, chat, magazines and speculoo biscuits (oh how I love those little individually wrapped caramel biscuits) 

and have come out with ... short hair - eek! I really like it!  The last time I had shortish hair was 7 years ago - did it take 7 years for it to grow back long again I am wondering?  That's a long time - it makes me 35 before I can have long locks again ...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

An exciting parcel

Sitting in my little office in my local town on Monday I was a little surprised when my intercom buzzer went unexpectedly. I didn't have any consultations booked and was indulging in a little design time. Who could it be? As the intercom speaker is broken downstairs I had to wait for my visitor to find me. I could hear the slow footsteps on the stairs and then there he was - the postman, garbed as usual in a white shirt, jumper and a pair of shorts - it's January and snow is falling ... shorts?!!! He explained he couldn't deliver to my house that morning as the lane was trapped by a tractor (hazard of living in the country) so he thought he'd pop along to my office instead (bonus of living in the country - postmen know where to find you if you aren't at home!). Look what he brought all the way from Paris........!

My favourite tea jam (x2), a beautiful caddy of amazingly fragrant tea called Thé de lune (what a name!) a caddy spoon shaped like a lotus leaf and a recipe book for cooking with tea. I cannot wait to try the tea infused Crème Brûlée!!! mmmmmmmmmmmm! I'm so excited!

Yesterday morning ...

I woke to softly falling snow ...

*A house in the village*