Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Pictures from the riverbank

Subterranean London

Some interesting facts gleaned from a guided walk around London, exploring 'subterranean London', one of hundreds run by London Walks.

* The Thames used to be twice as wide as it currently is, before the Victoria and Albert Embankments were constructed in the late 1800s to enable the Underground to be built.

* Pre-sewer systems, everyone's crap used to go straight into the Thames; the stench was so bad that MPs could hardly stand to go to Parliament - insert your own joke here about the irony of that these days...

* These days, the Thames is one of the cleanest rivers in any city. Eels, fish and birds all make their homes in and around its waters and the brown colour is apparently only caused by sediment being disturbed from the bottom by the four daily tides. I'm not sure I'd want to drink it though!

* "When the lions drink, London sinks" refers to lion heads all the way along the inside of the Victoria Embankment, which mark the point at which if water comes up to it, we should all start to worry...

* Roman London existed 20 feet below today's London. More and more excavations are uncovering all kinds of hidden treasures.

* During WW2, Londoners took shelter in underground stations but this often proved to be dangerous. Balham station was flooded after an explosion; a bomb fell into Bank station, rolled onto an escalator and then blew up at the bottom, killing everyone inside; at Bethnal Green, over 170 people were killed in a stampede to take shelter.

* In the event of an H bomb, being underground in one of the secret government bunkers is pointless, because atomic bombs suck all the oxygen out of underground tunnels.

Pictures of bloke who invented drainage system, and some random green thing that I can't remember the story about now!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Gone With the Wind

Saturday afternoon was theatre time. For her 30th birthday, a group of us bought my friend Liz a ticket to see the new musical adaptation of Gone With the Wind in the West End - and of course, we went along too!

Featuring none other than Scotland's very own Darius Danesh (!), it was quite a treat! Thankfully by the time we saw it, they'd cut the running time down from 4 hrs to 3 hrs 15. We were all wondering how we'd last but it was actually fairly pacy and we were definitely helped by having excellent seats. The way the set works involves various cast members running round a circular walkway and our seats were in the row directly behind the walkway. This meant we had loads of legroom - but also meant we had to be careful not to trip the actors up as they bustled past! Sadly Darius seemed to be the only cast member not to go past - perhaps fearful of being grabbed on the way past by an over-exuberant fan!

The theatre set was very well done, the cast was mostly excellent, Darius was surprisingly good (although just a bit too young for the part) - all in all, a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. One of my pals knows someone in the show, so we met her at the stage door afterwards - she had about half an hour before the whole thing started again for the evening performance - I felt exhausted for her!

Then it was back to ours for a curry extravaganza, courtesy of Kevin. He conjured up 5 different curries, for 7 of us and the consensus was that it was all fabulous - what a star!


In a surreal development, I ended up in one of London's most 'notorious' private members clubs last week. I think that means it gets featured regularly in the Metro via lots of pictures of celebs falling out of it drunk!

A friend of mine is raising funds for a charity she supports through a collective of women called the Sisterhood - anyway, they managed to persuade "Boujis" to let them have access once a month. You pay a tenner to get in, and that gets you free drinks from 7.30 - 9pm before the real members turn up later on.

It was good fun to go along, if only for the comedy of being looked up and down by the bouncer as if I really wasn't a) blonde enough or b) showing enough flesh to possibly be wanting to enter his club! The free drinks were limited to whatever cocktail they had surplus of, which was fine - I'm not fussy!

Most amusing of all was being kicked off our table at 11pm when a big group of Prince William & Harry lookalikes came along and commandeered our table, which apparently was reserved for them. Sometimes it's fun to cross paths with people you wouldn't normally encounter, but it was good to leave them all to it - at £9.50 for a G & T, it wasn't that much fun!

How the other half lives...

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Summertime and the living is easy

It's been scorching in London for about the past week. Our flat has turned into a sauna and the windows are now wide open at every given opportunity. I'm not complaining at all - it's gorgeous. I even managed to do a bit of work sitting on the bench in the little square outside our flat this week, which was fabulous.

This week I've finally managed to get back into my running, after the Paris marathon exploits - I hadn't realised quite how much that had taken out of me physically until I started trying to run again and couldn't manage more than a couple of miles without having to stop - my feet felt like blocks of lead. But this week has been better and today I managed about 4-4.5 miles, in what must have been 28 degrees, without too much difficulty. I did wonder why I was getting strange looks from people - then I got home and saw my face, which had turned a nice shade of purple!

Still, it has to be done - although yesterday was a nicer way to soak up the sunshine as we headed out to Richmond and spent a lazy afternoon by the side of the Thames, interspersed with an amble up to Richmond Park, an ice cream and a couple of drinks. Very, very pleasant. Picture is of strange ducks/geese in Richmond Park.

Friday night was also fun although in a different way. We finished up working promptly at 5pm and went up to Islington for a pre-theatre meal (steak and chips, mmmm) followed by "The Last Days of Judas Escariot" at the Almeida Theatre. I'm not sure what I made of the play itself - it was probably an hour too long at 3hrs including an interval and there was a bit too much method-type acting for me, but it was an interesting concept - a court in Purgatory was hearing Judas's case - a plea for salvation and a move upstairs from Hell. My favourite character/actor was Satan - there's no hope for me! There was no actual decision in the end, just lots of different characters from history giving their views and perspectives on betrayal, Jesus and the rightness or wrongness of Judas' actions (Mother Theresa, Ponchus Pilot, Mary Magdalene etc).

Friday, 2 May 2008

Comments Part 2

Hi again

I've changed this again so that you can now leave comments - but please be wary of older comments as at least one of them is a virus. Don't bother reading them! New ones should be ok as I now have 'screening power'!


Thursday, 1 May 2008


Hi folks

Just to let you know that I've changed settings on this so that it is now a bit harder to leave comments (was getting a few virus/spam types). Apologies if this causes any problems for the genuine amongst you!


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Random ramblings

Weeks are flying past a bit quickly for my liking at the moment...Here's what I've been up to over the past few days...


Busy week of work for Aspire, a network of social enterprises creating jobs for people who are or have been homeless. I’m helping them with various projects and spent Friday at their offices, in various meetings. The end result was that I had a proper “Friday feeling” by the end of the day, which I don’t get so much when I’m working from home.

Luckily I had someone to share it with as I met my friend Emily for a few post-work drinks and, sensibly, some food. We parted company about 8pm as she left to get her train back to Hove (approx 1 hr!) and I walked home along the Thames from pub to flat (approx 7 mins!) Sometimes I really have to pinch myself!!

Kevin was out with his work, watching “Bremner, Bird and Fortune” being filmed out at Wembley, so I passed some time flopped in front of TV watching gems like Question of Sport (!). He returned about 9.30 and we popped out for a quick drink just before closing time.


Up relatively early for a Saturday, breakfasted etc, then out to the pub (again!) for Chelsea v Man Utd – a veritable six pointer. We have lots of local pubs – there must be around 20 within 5-10 mins walk from us. For footie watching and reasonably priced pints, the Lord Clyde is where we usually end up and unlike most of the places near the river, it’s much more of a proper London boozer. Kevin was just about the only Man U fan there but everyone was very friendly (although maybe only because Chelsea won!)

It was a gorgeous sunny day here on Saturday, so we ended up wandering around for a few hours, soaking up the Borough Market atmosphere and ambling along the river to St Paul’s. We went inside and as always, I had that feeling of ‘if you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all’ – they always look better from the outside!

Then, in the evening, it was down to Wimbledon for a trip to the greyhounds - a ‘propah saaf Landan’ night out (according to Time Out’s London for Londoners guide, that is).

I realise there are big animal rights concerns about the greyhound racing industry – and for all I know, they may be totally legitimate – but the dogs we saw looked really healthy and happy and the owners and trainers seemed to be very affectionate towards them. It was disconcerting and uncomfortable to think about what we’d heard goes on behind the scenes and I was aware that by supporting the racing, we were supporting potentially dodgy stuff under the surface, but putting those concerns to one side, I have to say it was a really good night out.

We had the full ‘dinner & race card” package, which was a 3 course meal at a table looking out onto the tracks. There were 13 races in total, one every 15 mins, and we didn’t even have to leave our seats to bet – someone came round and kindly took our money for us! We’d set ourselves a limit of £30 each (about £2 a race) but happily we didn’t reach this limit. The first few races were a write-off but then we hit a purple patch and won something on just about every race from 5 – 12. Overall we were down about £25 between us, which didn’t feel too painful. I think our luck turned when we stopped trying to work out form and just went for whichever dogs we felt like!

The night finished early enough to get a tube home and I fell asleep on the couch while watching taped ER. Too much excitement you see!


A day of pottering, relaxing and generally not doing much at all. Our water supply was off in the morning thanks to a massive burst water main which has also flooded City Hall! Went shopping in the afternoon on a quest for lightbulbs (all our lights have gone at the same time) and ended up purchasing a bit of a new wardrobe (amazing how quickly you can buy 2 pairs of shoes, new jeans, a couple of vest tops and several other tops!).


Work, work, work. Good day, got quite a bit done. Also did a ‘mind map’ of everything I’ve got to do over the next few months which made me feel slightly better about getting it done and will at least stop me perpetually scribbling yet more to do lists on random bits of paper as I remember them! Yet another sign of me turning into my mum though!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Excitement building...

On a completely different note...

Have just booked a diving holiday in Malaysia, where we're stopping en route to our new life in Australia.

Topped and tailed by a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur, we will be spending 7 days and 6 nights at the Sipadan-Mabul resort. Just the very thought of warm water, amazing marine life and endless sun is enough to put a smile on my face - I can't wait!

Hearing voices

Watched Channel 4's drama-documentary last night, about 'Ruth' a doctor who hears voices and who was treated by Rufus May, a clinical psychologist who challenges the mainstream medical approach to treatment and works with patients to help them recover from this kind of experience without necessarily using anti-psychotic drugs or sectioning.

I wasn't all that impressed with the film maker's particular style but on the whole it was an interesting piece of work, which hopefully made more people think about mental health in a different way (that may be a naive hope on my part). What struck me most about May's approach was that, above all else, he respected the people he was working with and treated them with a basic humanity. From my observations of psychiatric "care" generally (as with social "care" more widely), this is far from the norm. State services too often dehumanise people and the more this can be challenged, the better.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Taking the scenic route

Having been back up in Scotland for a week or so and doing lots of work plus catching up, got back to London on Saturday afternoon and pretty much spent the rest of the day lounging on the couch, watching old films, catching up on episodes of ER and others taped while we were away, indulging on Kettle Chips and pizza, cursing Man U's inability to beat Blackburn (I had a flutter on them!) and then falling asleep in front of Match of the Day.

Sunday morning wasn't much more active as we were both knackered and happy to take advantage of first opportunity to have a lazy lie-in for what seems like ages. But eventually our batteries were recharged and we thought we'd tackle our 'things to do in London' list once more. We decided to stay close to home and headed along to the London Bridge Experience incorporating the London Tombs. The first part was a tour through the history of the London Bridge area and mostly involved a series of actors playing different (in)famous London characters and generally imparting bits of information about London. It was a bit heavy on the acting and light on information for me, but it was ok. Then it was onto the Tombs, which came with a warning that under 11's should probably give it a miss as should those of a nervous disposition. After donning hard hats and high-vis bibs we trooped through a series of strobe-lit caverns with all kinds of things along the way designed to instill fear into the strongest of hearts! Good fun in a pointless kind of way!

Then it was on to Islington to meet up with my friend Lindsay, who was on a flying visit to London from Chile via Norway and Scotland (so international, my friends!). Having checked out the address on our A-Z, I led Kevin up to the outskirts of Islington, a good mile-long walk from the nearest tube and through streets that were pretty un-Islington like until we got to the street where the pub was meant to be - only to find not a building site. Hmmm. I began to wonder if I'd got something wrong and sure enough, a phone call confirmed that we should be in Roseberry Avenue (not the Roseberry Place I'd navigated us to). Cue much maligning of my planning and organisational skills from Kevin.

Luckily we were able to jump on a bus straight to the right venue and were relieved to find a warm welcome at the Wilmington Arms. A good hour or two of catching up then it was home time, via the local curry house. Healthy eating starts again today!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


Just back from Paris, where I spent Sunday morning running the Paris Marathon along with 35,000 others. It was, bizarrely, a really enjoyable experience. Although my time was a bit slower than I'd hoped for (4hr30) and slower than my last marathon in Edinburgh 4 yrs ago, I enjoyed it a lot and have already started thinking about tackling Melbourne in October! It was a nice flat course, beginning with a gentle downhill on the Champs Elysees, taking in a couple of parks to the east and west of the city, running along the side of the Seine at various points and then finishing on the Avenue Foch, just behind the Arc de Triomphe. The crowd was great (lots of cheers of "Allez!", "Bravo!" etc) - except at the end when they were really quiet for some reason (possibly put off by the state of us runners by then!) and there were lots of bands and entertainment around the route, which always gives you a bit of a boost.

Once I'd recovered courtesy of a nice soak in a warm bath and a chicken kebab (!), we enjoyed an evening out in a restaurant called Le Loup Blanc (The White Wolf). On Monday, after taking some Nurofen and applying good old Deep Heat to a very painful left knee, I thought it best to try to walk around a bit. So we took in a few sights including Notre Dame, the Pompidou Centre and a boat trip along the Seine. Bizarre moment of the day was turning up at the Musee d'Arte Moderne to find it looking like the film set from some kind of post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. Shut to the public, with broken glass and used condoms littered around the grand architecture, it was a strange and sad way to find a beautiful building in the centre of Paris. Monday evening was a meal Aux Trois Petits Cochons, proper French cuisine and a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

A quick zip round the Musee d'Orsay on Tuesday and then home on Eurostar (which is one of the nicest ways to travel I've come across). Back to work today, legs just about fully recovered.


Champs Elysees


Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Red Arrows Flypast

Sometimes it's extra special to be here - like today, when we heard on the radio that the Red Arrows were doing a flypast to mark 90 years of the RAF. A quick check online revealed that they were going almost directly past our flat so I took the opportunity to head out to the river at lunchtime and got a great view of them coming down the Thames from Tower Bridge, over the Thames and then down towards Westminster.

Freezing among the floppy fringes

I can't remember the last time I watched the Boat Race on TV but as it was on at the weekend and we live near the Thames, we thought we'd go along and watch it 'in the flesh'.

It was bitterly cold and the rain was horizontal at points, and we didn't have a clue about the timings involved, so by the time we'd waited on the river bank for over an hour, I was feeling less convinced by the brightness of this idea. However, a warming (and hideously expensive) plastic glass of red wine helped, and it was very amusing to be in a throng of the poshest people I've come across since spending 4 years studying at Edinburgh Uni (single biggest feeder school - Harrow). Particularly charming to overhear one girl say to another "oh I wouldn't do your job, it doesn't pay nearly enough". Lovely!

The boats themselves were pretty damn fast, I must say, and I'm quite impressed at how they manage to row for 20 odd minutes (1 minute at the gym exhausts me!).

As I'm on my marathon training 'taper' at the moment (very little running and lots of pasta eating, in advance of Sunday's race), we were free to go to the pub afterwards. Managed to get home in time for my weekly dose of ER...

Sunday was running time (but only a relatively short one) and er, yes, you guessed it, the pub again. The evening ended with an unfortunate incident involving someone having too much to drink (not me!), hot candle wax and my new shirt - sigh. Some work with an iron and brown paper is in order.

Picture is of Cambridge warming up.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

North, South, East and West

A couple of weeks ago, my dad came to visit for the weekend. We packed a huge amount in to a couple of days. Highlights were:

* Curry in Brick Lane on Friday night (East End)

* Drinks in a City pub (City)

* Getting to the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath on Saturday morning (North London)

* Watching Fulham v Man Utd on Saturday afternoon (sadly not me, but dad and Kevin enjoyed it) (West London)

* Going on a boat trip along the Thames to the Dome (East End)

* Taking a trip on the London Eye (South Bank)

All in all, we covered a lot of ground and really got the sense of how different each part of London is - it's an amazing city.

Too cool for school

Last month we had a Camden-based weekend involving going to see a band on the Fri night and wandering round Camden market on the Sunday (before getting ever so slightly tipsy mid-afternoon!)

It's not often that I'm particularly self conscious about what I'm wearing or how I look but being in Camden on a Friday night was a bit of a test! We went to see Glasvegas, who have been tipped as one of the next big things. Having spent a fair amount of time in various music venues in my life, I'm used to turning up in jeans and a t-shirt and, well, enjoying the music. That didn't seem to be the point at KoKo in Camden. The phrase that came to mind was church of superficiality, epitomised by a girl I spotted wearing sunglasses (in a club, I mean come on!?). There wasn't a haircut in sight that hadn't been carefully angled and tweezed into that 'casually tousled' look and I don't think there was a single person there who actually let themselves relax for long enough to enjoy the band. All very entertaining in a bizarre kind of way. We ended the night in the wee small hours with an expensive trip home in a minicab!

I was running on the Saturday and then again, in a 10K race, on the Sunday morning (around Canary Wharf, which was beautiful and eerie). Then on the Sunday afternoon, because it was a beautiful crisp day, we decided to seek out some views. Primrose Hill had been mentioned to us, so we eagerly set off, hoping for a bit of a climb and a chance to see out across London.

Lovely as it was when we got there, it was clear that the definition of a "hill" is slightly different in London than in Edinburgh. When we say hill, we mean Arthur's Seat - i.e. a proper bloomin' hill, not just a bit of a mound...

The view across London was, well, alright, but a bit of an anti-climax I'm afraid. Anyway, we wandered through Primrose Hill, the area, and were amused to spot the former abode of Marx's comrade, Friedrich Engels. Nestled among the organic cafes, designer boutiques and exorbitantly priced flats that are home to the London glitterati, I wonder what he would have made of it!?

We ended up in Camden again, this time along Camden Lock and through Camden Market, which is a riot of colour and energy. Feeling slightly knackered after my running efforts I requested a pit stop for a small glass of wine... several hours later and feeling much rested, we rolled out of the pub and headed home.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Year of the rat

Yesterday was Chinese New Year – this year is the year of the rat. To mark the occasion, we went to China Town and caught the last few seconds of the last fireworks display in Leicester Square! We’d been out in greater London, visiting Kevin’s brother and his family, who live north of Hemel Hempstead – it’s still ‘London’ but only just. Much fun was had bouncing on Kevin’s niece’s trampoline, enjoying a roast chicken lunch and watching football on their massive TV.

Anyway, although we missed the Chinese fireworks, we did wander around Chinatown for a bit before getting cold and hungry and having a snack in “London’s only Hummus Bar”. Hmmm. Not sure I can see it taking off as a concept – you get a plate of hummus with a topping of your choice and a couple of pitas. Faintly interesting as a novelty but really, there’s only so much chickpea-based fun you can have.

On the subject of it being the year of the rat, the Observer yesterday reported that,

“Driven out of sewers by summer floods and an urban building boom, then nurtured by warmer winters and the leftovers of fast food, rats have been moving into homes, gardens and even cars around the country.”


Wombling around

There has been a run of glorious weather here over the last couple of weeks and it’s been getting steadily warmer, to the point that Saturday was actually T-shirt weather!

We had our usual list of weekend chores to do (sorting out bills, cleaning, tidying etc) but the day was too lovely to bother with any of that. So we decided to head for some green space and started to make our way to Richmond Park. The vagaries of the underground thwarted us though, as we realised when we got to Westminster that the particular branch of the particular line we needed was closed. As luck would have it, the other branch of said line went to Wimbledon so we decided to go to the Common and do some wombling instead.

Wimbledon is one of these bits of London that is unnervingly white and affluent. Our part of London is hardly ‘disadvantaged’ (stuffed olive with your sea-salt crusted, home baked bread infused with rosemary, anyone?) but it does at least have some diversity to it – which to me, is one of the most stimulating and enjoyable aspects of living in London. Wimbledon is very lovely to look at, and the Common is a fantastic space, but the overwhelming ‘mwa mwa yummy mumminess’ of it all just suffocates my spirit!! (sorry yummy mummies everywhere)

Living la vida social enterprise

Ended up out for a drink the other night with various people of a social enterprise leaning and found ourselves chatting to Ted and George, who have been involved in just about every bit of community development in and around the area we’re living. It was a privilege to talk to them and hear all about our local history.

The street we live in was one of the first initiatives between the community and the GLC back in the eighties. The land and buildings over a couple of acres were formerly the Courage brewery (our block was the office building) and they were redeveloped through a partnership between the council and the community into affordable social housing. Since then, there’s obviously been a bit of ‘right to buy’ leakage (presumably what has happened to the flat we’re living in) but the whole area remains one of the few centrally-located bits of social housing in London.

Round the corner from us is the Borough Market, a social enterprise which has been around for around thirty years and which brings hordes of middle class shoppers into the area every weekend. Our local pub is the Market Porter, which we were delighted to find out is actually owned by a local charity – guilt free drinking!

A few minutes along the Thames is the Oxo Tower Wharf, part of the Coin Street Community Builders development, which is more social housing (co-operatives and community-owned), combined with a whole set of bars, restaurants, boutique shops and galleries, again bringing money into the areas. We had dinner at the Oxo Tower 8th floor restaurant on Saturday night (thanks Kevin!), and I would highly recommend it for food (melt in the mouth flavours), wine and amazing views (see above for evidence!)

Democracy discussions

One of the perks of being self-employed is that I can make a unilateral decision to take Monday morning off if I want to. Having just got a load of work in last week, I’m taking advantage of the chance to do that just now - and it’s exactly what I did last week, spending the morning with my brother, Paul, who was visiting for a few days. We went on a boat trip up and down the Thames, followed by a wander around Westminster.

We had a lively discussion about human nature, liberal values, democracy and “the people”, whether rationality and happiness are mutually incompatible, and all kinds of related topics that I can’t remember now. As Paul said, it was good to be having that kind of discussion while walking around the Westminster corridors of power, instead of just taking pictures. But we did take a few pictures too – here’s one!

To run run run

Marathon training is going reasonably well and although I’ve not done as much as my original training plan says I should have done, it’s still much, much more than I’d done at this stage in 2004 when I ran my first marathon. So I’m feeling quite pleased with it all and am looking forward to the last 8 weeks of training before the big day in Paris on 6th April.

Running in London is a real joy – it’s flat, it’s not too windy, there’s loads of stimulation and it’s a great way to get to know how different bits of the city fit together. Yesterday I ran for about 2 hours (roughly 12-13 miles), following the Thames along to Chelsea Harbour and then turning back. This is what I run past:

The first few miles take me past Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, the cultural bit of the South Bank (the National Theatre, the British Film Institute etc), the London Eye, the London Aquarium and the former GLC building (now a McDonalds!). This first bit is great when it’s fairly quiet, as it was yesterday (because for once I managed to get out early instead of procrastinating for hours!). When it’s busy with tourists it’s a nightmare and I’m sure I run twice as far, weaving in and out of the crowds – although it does mean I get to feel all smug and virtuous about being a ‘real’ Londoner (as if!).

Then I reach Westminster and as soon as I get past Westminster Bridge, it’s incredibly quiet. The stretch of the river past the Houses of Parliament is one of my favourite bits – such an amazing view. The next bridge is Lambeth Bridge and I normally cross over to the North at this point, then continue heading West along the Embankment towards Battersea and Chelsea. On the way I pass Battersea Power Station, an immense building and Battersea Park (which I avoid if I can because of the vast numbers of yappy little dogs, but which is handy for a loo stop if I need one!).

Then it’s on to Chelsea and through into Chelsea Harbour, through the grounds of the Conran hotel, past the Yacht Club and along the river again. I keep expecting to bump into Frank Lampard, John Terry or Ashley Cole - it has that footballer, loadsamoney feel to it! One of the yachts I saw yesterday was called “Hot Chihuahua”. I think that says it all!

Then it’s time to turn round and go back home again. The views, especially when it’s clear and sunny, are truly stunning. Not that I didn’t enjoy marathon training around Glasgow four years ago, but this is quite different!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

A week in the life of...

Things I’ve done this week (apart from getting aforementioned big news!):

* Met with the people behind Wedge, a loyalty card for local shops which aims to get people shopping with independent retailers more and more – hopefully going to get involved with them in some way to help them grow.

* Been to a Junior Chamber London members meeting (young professionals networking & professional development). The main subject was how to manage email more effectively. Some useful tips and things to think about. Apparently email traffic doubles every two years.

* Continued co-ordinating a conference in the Highlands!

* Done lots of hard thinking and writing for research I’m working on into “Social Return on Investment” (a way of placing a financial value on the social impact of organisations).

* Watched the first DVD in 24 series 6 (have just joined lovefilm).

* Listened to far, far too much radio 2 and eventually re-tuned to BBC 6 Music after I couldn't take any more middle England twaddle and twitter

* Cried while watching a short film about Cyrenians Farm, which I helped to support in my last job

* Been running three times, 22.5 miles in total.

* Got a letter from my lovely friend Will, who’s only got a few months left in Tanzania. It made me really miss him and I can’t wait to catch up when he gets back.

* Drank too much wine in the Founders Arms
last night and had a loud, drunken and pointless debate with Kevin on the way home about the potential for drowning in the Thames.

All in all, fairly busy and now I'm looking forward to an evening of watching mindless TV and eating spicy meatballs courtesy of my fabulous partner! Also looking forward to a visit from my brother tomorrow.

Big news

Quite unexpectedly and much sooner than we'd anticipated, we got the news this week that our visa application for Australia has been approved. I think we'd both talked ourselves into thinking it wasn't going to happen so it was a bit of a shock to get the "yes"!

So we leave in July, which feels very soon - it's great news and we're both really pleased and excited. We'll be there for a couple of years and I'm looking forward to actually being in once place for more than six months!

I think I'm going to keep doing self-employed work for the remainder of our time in London, maybe supplementing it with some temp work along the way. And we'll have to crack on with getting through our "50 things to do in London" list!

Monday, 21 January 2008


Went to Tower of London on Sunday, which was most disappointing thing we've been to so far in our tourist-in-London endeavours...

It was £16 each for tickets and totally over-priced. Very little in the way of information boards to tell you about what you were wandering through - so very little sense of history on our way around.

There was an "exhibition" on torture in the tower, which was pretty tame (I've seen much better in eastern Europe...) and had the bizarre feature of an "entry poll" which asked people to vote on whether they thought torture was acceptable all, some or none of the time. Frighteningly, the vast majority of visitors had voted for all or some of the time, with only about 1/3 saying none of the time. As Kevin said, it would have been more interesting if they'd done an exit poll to take views after reading about the effects of torture!!

The highlight, of course, was meant to be the Crown Jewels. I'm sure I've been told that only replicas are in situ in the tower but there did seem to be a lot of security around them so who knows... There was a bizarre moving escalator to take you past the various crowns which I could see the point of from an efficiency perspective, but which felt a bit ungrateful from an "I've paid £16 and I'm a London council tax payer" perspective!!

Anyway...that was all after I'd been out to Kent early Sunday morning to take part in the Dartford 10 mile race. This involved a train trip on what is a truly marvellous public transport system compared to Scotland's own, leaving London Bridge at 8am and arriving in Kent a mere 30 minutes later. I completed the race in about 86 mins which is a lot less than my PB from 4 years ago, but still pretty good considering my focus is on distance not speed at the moment. I managed a sprint finish too!

Prior to that, we'd spent Saturday working and not doing very much, and Friday evening out in Soho with a friend of mine and her husband. We met in a cinema bar, had a few drinks and then Kevin and I succumbed to a Chinese meal before we walked home - it is so absolutely fantastic to be able to walk home from the west end (only 30-40 minutes!).

Last night we went to the Clapham Picturehouse to see No Country for Old Men, which I'm sure is a cult classic but I was a bit too tired to appreciate it after my early morning running escapades... It was alright but a bit 'what's the point of this exactly?'. And we missed the last tube home by a mere minute, which meant two buses and a later night than would have been ideal. But who schedules film timings so that people miss the last tube!?

Anyway, another week, more work and more work-searching...more news in due course!

Seyonara tout le monde xx

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Tower Bridge

A few interesting facts about Tower Bridge, gleaned from the excellent Tower Bridge exhibition which we went to today...

* 432 men were employed to build it; only 10 died despite the fact that health & safety legislation didn't exist, or not in its current form anyway

* It took 8 years for the man behind the design, Horace Jones, to convince the committee making the decision, that a) the bridge was needed and b) his design would meet all the challenges that needed to be met. He died a year into its construction so never saw the end product.

* There was lots of opposition to the concept of having a bridge at that part of the Thames, particularly from merchants who felt it would be "the ruin of us all", cutting the Port of London in half and restricting their access to their wharves (the design in fact allowed for the famous 'lifting' of the bridge so that tall ships could still sail through).

* The bridge's bascules (the bits that raise) are still lifted around 1,000 times each year. By my reckoning that's about three times a day - but I've never seen it yet!

Here's a view from the Tower Bridge upper walkway and of one of the engines that powers the lifting.

Saturday night "up west"

In an effort to tick off some of our 'things to do in London' list, we went to the cinema in Leicester Square last night.

Leicester Square is being given a revamp over the next few years to make it more attractive to tourists and less scruffy. When I saw this on the news last week, I didn't really know what the problem was as I hadn't remembered it being particularly scruffy...but looking at it anew on Saturday evening, it does seem a bit rough around the edges...

Not that it's any cheaper for it though - £17.50 each for circle seats in the big Odeon (the one where all the premiers are held). The usual exorbitant prices for popcorn etc. But it is a lovely cinema and you've got to do these things now and again!

Went to see "I am Legend", which sees Will Smith as the last man in New York after a cancer curing virus mutates, wiping out 95% of the world's population and turning most of the rest into "socially de-evolved dark-seekers" - aggressive zombie-like things which only come out after dusk, killing and eating anything they can and exhibiting no traces of their former 'humanity'. Will is the soldier-scientist who pledges himself to finding a cure for the virus, having packed his wife and child off to safety as New York is annexed for the greater good, only to see them die in a helicopter crash caused by mass panic and hysteria. Left alone with only his daughter's pet dog for company, he spends his days looking for other survivors, testing out variations on a possible cure on rats and the occasional dark-seeker that he manages to trap and catch. He spends his nights cowering in fear behind bolted doors as the darkness gives life to all kinds of nasty things!

In the end our hero is joined by a woman and child (who somehow get to Manhattan although all the bridges were bombed when the island was annexed). I won't give the end away needless to say it's fairly Hollywood...

It wasn't as bad as I expected it to be and it was pretty gripping throughout. But for a much more thoughtful take on a similar premise (i.e. humanity nearly wiped out by a virus), I'd recommend "Earth Abides" by George Stewart.

Take That and Party!!

Thanks to my lovely fantastic mum's generosity, I spent Friday evening glammed up at a very special event in Old Billingsgate, a former fishmarket and on this occasion, venue for a fundraising dinner for the Outward Bound Trust, with special guest stars, Take That.

Now, although I was firmly in the target demographic for Take That's first conquest of the pop world, I was more interested in Scotland's own Wet Wet Wet and although the occasional poster may have graced my bedroom wall, the frenzy over their recent reunion has tended to leave me a bit bewildered.

Not any more!


Assured, professional performance, totally at ease with themselves and the audience, no airs and graces, just basic strong singing, really affectionate with each other in a northern bloke-type way, bursting with charisma and I'd forgotten just how bloody good some of their tunes are. I've since downloaded two of their albums and am a complete convert!

One of the best nights I've had in a long, long time.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Lovely Ljubljana

After a lazy New Year’s Day, it was off to Ljubljana on 2nd Jan for a few days. After chuntering out to the airport on the Stansted “Express” (hmmm) we arrived to find that our flight was delayed (always risky flying on the last easyjet flight of the day!) but we arrived in good spirits nevertheless and enjoyed a relaxing break in a very laidback, cosmopolitan capital that feels cozy, young, stylish and affluent.

It did, however, take us three museums before we found any real explanation of either Slovenia’s communist past or its experience of World War 2. There was lots of information about its Roman settlements and its current status as an EU state, but I would have really liked to understand a bit more about the complicated set of relationships, ideologies and history in the Balkans, from a Slovenian perspective.

2008 rolls around

So, it’s 2008 and 2007 already seems like a distant memory in some ways. After a long festive break, filled with all kinds of family events, we came back to London for New Year, taking advantage of our close proximity to the Thames to go out to see the fireworks on the river. People around us in the crowd had travelled from as far afield as Derby to see the display, which apparently cost £1 million to put on. Although they were impressive, I’m not sure I would have wanted to travel much further than the 20 minutes it took from our flat! The crowds were a drunken nightmare, it was cold and raining – and to cap it all, we’d brought the wrong bottle opener with us so couldn’t even enjoy our bottle of fizzy wine - I can’t remember the last time I was sober at New Year!

Anyway, despite much talk of Edinburgh losing its Hogmanay crown, I can’t see London competing for it – unlike Princes St, there was no music or entertainment for the crowds, so basically it was just a long wait for some fireworks which were actually a bit tricky to see after a few minutes, thanks to loads of smoke (again, Edinburgh has the advantage of hills to show them from).

Don’t mean to sound negative – it was good to see them and the Eye looked impressive with fireworks shooting off it!