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.