Monthly Archives: June 2013

Ambling in Lewes

The thunk of tennis balls on tellys, the smell of fresh strawberries in punnets on farmer’s stalls, the puffs of cottony clouds in the pale blue sky…. summer has finally arrived in England. And one of the best places to be in an English June, when the weather behaves, is Sussex (East or West — I won’t discriminate), with its rolling green hills, sheep-dotted meadows, and equestrians clopping along the sides of the country lanes.

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I headed into the town of Lewes yesterday, with no goal other than to mooch about, poke around flea markets and food markets, have a coffee, and soak up the summery atmosphere. On a sunny Saturday in June, Lewes is the perfect place to do all these things.

Market traders were setting up their produce in the main square when I arrived…

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… and the cherry seller offered me a few of his sweet cherries to taste…

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…the bread still exuded a warm yeasty scent…

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…and those newly-picked English strawberries drew the city folks like bees around honey.

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Flowers were everywhere…

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…and I wished I had a garden to plant (maybe next year).

I mooched and wandered…

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…dipping into the antiques shops…

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…stopping to listen to a street busker…

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…admiring the Victorian architecture…

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…and a cat who would be king…

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…who understood what a lazy summer day was all about.

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Reading and Baking

I had a day to myself yesterday where I didn’t have any client meetings, pressing work, and no novel to work on. I went for a jog then came back to Tootsie’s and looked through the books on her living room shelves and found exactly the book I was looking for, but didn’t know I’d find… Stephen King’s “On Writing”.

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Eureka! I’d been planning to buy it myself, and there it was — right in front of me! So, after I showered I settled down on the sofa and started to read. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had the time to just stick my nose into a book and not come up for air until my stomach rumbled from hunger. But that’s exactly what I did. Then, at around page 186 I noticed I’d forgotten to eat breakfast and was well past lunch. I wandered into the kitchen and was taken with the urge to bake something. It was a bit chilly and rainy and I felt like filling the house with the warmth of something delicious and home-made. I rooted around the cupboards and the fridge and found everything I needed for strawberry shortcake. Newly picked English strawberries exuding the scent of grass and rain…

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…and all the homely ingredients for an afternoon of baking.

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I measured and sifted and stirred and floured and rolled and baked. What a simple pleasure! The rain pattering against the window pane, and the kitchen filling with the warmth of the oven and the heavenly smell of baking shortbread.

I sliced the strawberries and sprinkled them with sugar and let them steep and sweeten  in the fridge. I whipped the cream. Then, after supper, I assembled the surprise dessert and we all, Tootsie, Wineguy, Hankenstein and I, tucked into our home-made strawberry shortcakes.

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A good book and a good dessert. Life doesn’t need to be complicated.

An Afternoon in Covent Garden

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I was in London and found myself with a free afternoon yesterday, so I headed over to Covent Garden, www.coventgarden.com , to have a wander. It’s a place that’s always full of energy, people, and fun things to eat, do and see.

I always glance up at the twisty covered bridge between the Royal Opera House, www.roh.org.uk , and its rehearsal rooms across the road, one of my favourite pieces of modern architecture in London…

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…and as I walked down towards the market, I stopped to ogle the entertainers.

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I heard the clip clop of hooves on the cobblestones and glimpsed the police trotting by on their horses…

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…and I followed them past the merchant stalls where the crowds were queuing up for everything from fresh English strawberries…

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…to candy…

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…to artisan soaps and candles…

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…or tea served in proper china cups (with a side of fudge).

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I passed the hawkers at the Jublilee Market selling touristy souvenirs…

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…past a row of bicycles which caught my eye…

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…and headed into the elegant neo-classical, glass-roofed market (built in 1828-30, with the glass roof added in 1872) which replaced the higgledy-piggledy fruit and veg stalls of the earlier market (which had been on the same site since the 17th century).

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It was as hustling and bustling as I remember, and I stopped for some gelati… decisions, decisions…

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…I settled on chocolate and pistachio…

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…and did some window-shopping.

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I leaned on the railings overlooking the courtyard in front of the old Punch and Judy Pub (the first pub I’d ever gone to in London, back in 1985)…

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…then I headed out to the piazza in front of St. Paul’s, known as the Actor’s Church, www.actorschurch.org , (built in 1663), and famous as the church in front of which Cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle met Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady…

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…where another street performer was plying his trade.

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I stopped in a café for a latte and a pain au chocolat…

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…then headed back to Tootsie’s on the Underground, coming full circle.

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Glad Rags for a Posh Do

A great designer friend of mine invited me to a posh do last night in Chelsea — a big exhibition of art, antiques and design called Masterpiece www.masterpiecefair.com . I borrowed some glad rags from Tootsie (all mine are in storage)…

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…and headed into London to meet up with my friend and we headed off to the Masterpiece tent on the Chelsea Embankment…

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…where I was particularly taken with the sculptures made out of blue glass bottles.

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London’s movers and shakers were there, along with many visitors from abroad, eager to spend their money on beautiful objects (and if you have money to spend, I’m all for buying beautiful things you love)…

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…and champagne and canapés were never far away (which always makes me happy).

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We hobbed and we nobbed (well, mostly my friend hobbed and nobbed while I drank champagne and chased after canapés), and then we headed out of the tent, past the vintage Rolls…

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…and drove over to his flat (not in the vintage Rolls) where his partner had cooked us up a slap up meal of guinea fowl followed by home-made raspberry ice cream.

A very nice evening was had by all. 🙂

Bubbles and Butterflies

After our visit to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum last weekend, my sister Tootsie, my nephew Hankenstein and I headed over to the Science Museum www.sciencemuseum.org.uk where we watched a bubble demonstration.

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There were small bubbles, big bubbles, bubbles full of dry ice which steamed like volcanoes when David the demonstrator stuck a straw in them. Ooohhhh!

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There were even gigantic bubbles that covered one of the fathers from head to toe. Well, that was worthwhile.

On our way into the Science Museum Hankenstein had noticed a tent set up outside on the lawn with pictures of butterflies all over it. “I want to see the butterflies now,” he said. So off we went. And how beautiful they were, flying around and posing on the plants and flowers.

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On our way out we saw a few street musicians who’d just struck up a jazzy tune.

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We paused for a listen and Hankenstein gave them some money, and we wandered off to the Underground, full of the experiences of our Sunday in London.

PS: The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are both free. Which is nice.

Dinosaurs at the Museum

My sister Tootsie, my 4-year-old nephew Hankenstein and I had a day out yesterday at the Natural History Museum in London  www.nhm.ac.uk to see the dinosaurs. And, you know, it was a fantastic day.

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We were on a mission — dinosaurs and only dinosaurs. We started with an “Oh, wow!” from Hankenstein as soon as we entered the lobby…

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…and we followed the dinosaur path, under the head of the allosaurus…

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…past triceratops…

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…and, oh, lots more — Hankenstein advising us as to whether they were plant-eaters or meat-eaters based on their teeth and hip bones (he’s quite the little palaeontologist).

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And then, we could hear it — somewhere behind a wall. T. REX!

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He moved! He lashed out with his tail! He gnashed his teeth and waved his head and wiggled his tiny fingers!

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I didn’t like the way he was staring at me when I took his photo. I think he thought I looked tasty.

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Time to move on! Past the dinosaur eggs (how cute)…

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…and then off to the Science Museum for more fun. Till tomorrow!