Sunday, 10 September 2017

The many beach huts of Walton on the Naze

I've always been an autumn girl; knitwear appearing in the shops, leaves turning their most beautiful shades, misty mornings. But this year, spring and summer have turned my head a little, with their blue skies and psychedelic blooms.

So here, in an attempt to revive the dying embers of the British summer, are some photos I took back in July. The beach promenade between Frinton-on-Sea and Walton on the Naze is lined with beach huts -- the whole 3.5km of it. We walked there and back, and must have passed 1000 beach huts in doing so, all different colours and styles. Lap up this photogenic slice of the British seaside...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The whole picture: August 2017

August's been a quiet one on the blog, as much as my energy has been focused on other things. Namely, trying to get my deposit back from a rogue landlord from when I still lived in London. It's looking like that one might end up in court so I'll say nothing else about it for now. And so, onto happier things...

What I've done in August

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Elsewhere though, things have busy. I had a lovely day on a canal boat in Guildford, catching up with friends and looking after an adorable cockapoo. We hired the boat from Farncombe Boat House and headed a few miles up the river. We had every sort of weather imaginable from bright sunshine, to hail, thunder and lightning - and we were only on the boat for eight hours. We rounded off the day with a meal at Coal in Basingstoke and a few drinks at Las Iguanas.

Workwise, I've zipwired, tucked into afternoon tea, stumbled across an aeroplane graveyard, been ice karting at Queen's Ice and Bowl, visited London Zoo... and spent one or two hours in the office too.

Books. There have been so many books. I always intend to put a snap of every book I've read on Instagram with a mini-review, but I always forget. Now I'm back commuting to work from Tonbridge everyday, that's at least two hours of reading time a day - I'm averaging three or four books a week #geek. Recommendations for what I should read next in the comments please!

What I've eaten in August

Well, there was that aforementioned afternoon tea, which was pink-themed in aid of the Pink Ribbon Foundation. It was at Bluebird in Chelsea, somewhere I've always wanted to try, but it's just so damn far from a tube station (and that's coming from someone who used to live in south London) that I've never made it before. I'll be honest, I was underwhelmed. The food was good, nothing groundbreaking, but the staff weren't great. One particular waitress had an uncanny ability to go from rudely nonchalant to borderline aggressive within a few seconds, which is quite a skill.

Then there was Coal, the Basingstoke restaurant we headed to after a day on the boat (there are a few other branches dotted around too). It's a Tex-Mex grill style restaurant - burgers, chimichangas, plenty of sides and decent cocktails to boot. We've been a few times and it's always at capacity - book ahead for this one guys.

My two favourite cupcake bakeries in London are Hummingbird Bakery and Primrose Bakery. They're very different in style - Hummingbird is a big, bold, American chain with towering layer cakes, and Primrose Bakery is a far more British equivalent, tucked away in Primrose Hill. Both do excellent cakes, and both featured in my August (rude not to, if you're passing by). What pre-holiday diet?

I finally got round to trying the Unicorn Freakshake at Maxwell's in Covent Garden. I have strong opinions on this trend for unicorn and mermaid food, and that's something I'll come back to in a later blog post. The freakshake was an impressive beast, topped up with various marshmallows and sweets, whipped cream, candy floss (sorry, 'unicorn hair floss' #eyeroll) and goodness knows what else. The actual milkshake liquid though, was vile. Being pink, we expected it to be strawberry flavour, but it was some sort of chemical tasting bubblegum flavour that we both struggled to finish. That said, the salted caramel freakshake sounds delicious, and I'll no doubt be back to try it soon.

Things I've loved in August

I've been trying to steer clear of the shops for financial reasons, but sometimes, these things just happened. I fell for this top in the window of Gap (Disney AND sequins, what's not to like?) but natch, it's for kids.

My Oasis X ZSL collection tiger trainers arrived, and have been firmly glued to my feet ever since (top tip: Oasis shoes tend to come up small - go for a size bigger than you normally would).

The wonder that is Domestic Sluttery (seriously, if you haven't already, sign up for a daily dose of sunshine in your inbox) introduced me to the concept of cross stitch maps. Happily for my bank account they're all sold out at the moment, but I'll be adding it to my Christmas list

Cath Kidston's latest foray into the world of Disney is a brush with Peter Pan. It's a cute collection (launching 21 September), but I've found all of their Disney collabs so far extremely overpriced.

What I've been listening to

Ok, don't expect this as a regular section on these round-ups because I'm *whisper it* just not that into music. That said, two of my favourite artists announced new albums this month, which makes it a Good Month For Music.

First up is the girl the whole music world's been talking about this month; Taylor Swift. Her new single, Look What You Made Me Do, has been a bit of a Marmite issue. This guy actually summed things up quite nicely. I'll hold off saying any more until I hear the rest of the album in November.

Secondly, and equally exciting, Scouting For Girls have also announced a new album, marking their 10th anniversary. It's out a month before T-Swizzle's, so the autumn is looking pretty exciting, music-wise.

What's coming up?

I've got a holiday to look forward to (anyone ever been to Bulgaria, specifically Elenite? Holler in the comments below or let me know on Twitter if you have. I has many questions). Then once I'm back from there, the hunt is on to find myself a flat here in Tonbridge.

I thought my August had been quite a quiet one, but actually, I've packed a lot in. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with next month's antics as they happen.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Rare photos from inside St Paul's Cathedral

This chandelier put me in mind of Beauty and the Beast for some reason...
St Paul's Cathedral is offering photographers a rare treat this summer - a chance to get inside and photograph the world-famous building.

Filming and photography are not allowed inside the building normally, but the cathedral is staying open late for a few evenings. Photography is not only allowed, but is actively encouraged at these events.

I'd been to St Paul's once before, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, but my sole memory of it is the bookmark I got in the shop on the way out. This time round, the whole thing was a lot more opulent than I expected.

A combination of the opulence, the scale, and that old photographers' friend, symmetry, make St Paul's a photographers' paradise. Some people may argue that allowing photography detracts from the experience, but I actually found myself paying more attention to the smaller details than I would have done without my camera. The nave and the crypt are open during these events, but the upper levels including the Whispering Gallery are not.

To be honest, I'm disappointed with how a lot of my photos came out. My camera had been working hard all morning at the London Zoo animal weigh-in (have I ever mentioned how much I love my job?), and I was struggling a bit with the focus.

The inside of that world-famous dome
Want to go to a St Paul's Summer Late yourself? At time of writing , there are only two dates left, and they're very soon (28 and 31 August). Tickets are £10 and advance booking is recommended, although there were people buying tickets on the door when I went. I also overheard a couple of members of cathedral staff saying that they may be doing similar events in the autumn, so keep an eye on the website...

Close-up detail of the organ cabinet.

Peering through the grates in the floor of the nave to the crypt beneath. Once people saw me on the floor, pointing my camera through the gaps, a whole crowd gathered to see what I was looking at. Most were disappointed.

The ceilings are spectacular - thousands of tiny mosaic tiles.

Monday, 21 August 2017

We need to talk about brunch

4pm? Really?
Brunch. The clue's all there in that one word. It's a mash-up of breakfast and lunch, a meal for lazy days and long weekends, when you've stayed in bed a bit too late for breakfast, but are too peckish to hold out until lunchtime.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have noticed that brunch has become a big thing recently, particularly with the avocado-loving millennials of London. Of all the meals, it's the one that I partake in least, and probably the one I have strongest opinions about. So, given that I haven't released my inner old woman for a while, here she is to tell you all the issues she has with these new-fangled brunches.

The length of time

If it's past 1pm, we are well into lunch territory. 4pm is nibbling on the heels of dinner. Yet some London brunches go on until 5pm. If you're going that far, why not call it brunner, cover all the day's three meals in one massive sitting, and be done with it?

1pm is the brunch cut-off time for me - it's late enough to allow for a cheeky extra couple of hours in bed of a weekend, but not so late that you'll be passing out from hunger before you get to the restaurant.

Boozy brunches

Booze: just no
This one stems from the fact that I don't drink alcohol much anyway, but boozy brunches are an absolute no-no for me.

If we're sticking to the proper rules, as outlined above, brunch is over by 1pm. Pre-1pm is not the time for downing bubbly. Pre-1pm is the time for tea, and coffee, and hot chocolate and orange juice. Perhaps a lemonade if it's a special occasion. The thought of anything alcoholic passing my lips before this time physically turns my stomach.

While we're skirting around the topic, many bottomless brunches are only bottomless regarding the booze. The food element of the meal firmly has a bottom on it. I'm more of an eat-as-much-as-you-like than a drink-yourself-stupid kinda girl - where are the bottomless brunches for us, huh? Or even for those of who prefer our soft drinks? Bottomless orange juice - now you're talking.

The things that are served

This is a brunch-themed afternoon tea. Completely different and 100% acceptable
I'm a traditionalist when it comes to brunch. It should consist predominantly of breakfast items - pastries, breads, the sort of things you'd find in a Full English. Perhaps a toastie or panini - anything that'll ease you into the day gently.

Not fried chicken. Not steamed bao buns (I've yet to fully fathom what one of these is, but it doesn't sound like something I want on my plate before 5pm - if at all). Not barbecue pork ribs. Not pizza. Okay, that last one's a lie. Pizza's an any day, any time kinda food. But I stand by the rest of it.

The prices

Yes, yes, London. Yes, yes, hipsters. I know. But restaurants have caught onto this trend for weekend brunches and jacked up their prices accordingly. You're being overcharged, plain and simple. But if it's 2pm and you're tucking into fried chicken and cocktails, what makes it brunch, not lunch? The price, that's what. Save yourself £30 odd and book a table for lunch instead (plenty of restaurants have brunch and lunch sittings running simultaneously). Same food, same booze, different title, one heck of a lot cheaper.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below - I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts on brunch.

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