Tuesday, 24 January 2012

January amusements.

How's your January going? I'm having a super quiet one, trying to be healthy and working lots, sometimes in my new local cafe, bread and bean. Really nice coffee and cakes, tea served in pots with proper china, free wi-fi, comfy seats, friendly peeps, cloth hand-towels in the bathroom…it's seriously good vibes! Highly recommend, if you're in otherwise drab Archway.

I've been doing a bit of reading. I've been meaning to read Alice Munro for a while, after hearing so many superlatives about her. Too Much Happiness is a collection of short stories; I was gasping and wide-eyed by about the third page! I love Margaret Drabble's dry and clever writing. The Radiant Way is a novel set against the backdrop of the 1980s, almost a sociological study of the decade. Interesting. Restoration is my bookclub book this month. I'd never normally pick this book up (the beauty of book clubs!) but I'm loving the character of Merivel! Next to read, this Isabel Allende novel I picked up in a chazza. I can be a bit narrow in my reading, I tend to stick with British or North American authors, so I thought I'd go South American for a change. Seems to be all about the ladies in my reading at the moment.

I've been doing some thrifty and healthy cooking! I mentioned in my last post that I love Pinterest: one of the things I'm really enjoying about it is food inspiration. I get in a food rut really quickly and end up eating the same thing over and over again. But on Pinterest there are so many tasty-looking food pictures it's easy to get inspired; I've eaten two Pinterest-inspired meals in the last week, including this yum and pretty meal. I love the tumblr the picture came from, as well. (Another bonus: you find new blogs.)

Did anyone watch Sicily Unpacked? A three part series featuring Giorgio Locatelli (swoon + yum) and Andrew Graham-Dixon (chin rub), investigating the food and art of Sicily. Perfect for dreaming of summer days surrounded by mediterranean blue. It's available for a few more days on iPlayer.

Oh, and I love this tune by Django Django. You can buy it here.

That, as they say, is me. What you all been up to?

bread and bean picture credit

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Booking Office – St Pancras International.

Looking above the booking

I just can't get over my love for the new St Pancras station. (St Pancras International, if you will). About ten years ago, when the hotel was disused and in a state of decay, I volunteered as a guide over the Open House weekend. After hours, I was lucky enough to get a torchlit tour of the dark hotel; chilly long hallways, cobwebbed rooms of fading gilt and tarnished mirrors. It was eerie, the ghosts almost palpable along the grand corridors.

We were told that back in the 1960s, the building narrowly escaped demolition; apparently the problems of updating the hotel to accommodate modern luxuries such as running water in each room were insurmountable. The notion that this glorious building could be just another London ghost, replaced by rat-coloured concrete box-buildings like those down the street at Euston, makes visiting the glorious, painstakingly restored hotel and station all the more sweet.

I needed a place to catch up with a friend as she passed through Euston last weekend, so we grabbed the chance to admire St Panks. After a quick cup of tea and slice of Victoria sponge at Peyton & Byrne (7/10, nice cake but paper cups?), Jenny said she'd been told about an amazing bar in the old booking office. We traipsed off to find it and thank goodness we did!

Greeted by a friendly doorman, we were ushered in. It is a hugely ornate, grandly arched space, with bare stone walls and a high iron vaulted ceiling. An old station clock hangs on one wall, on another, oversized leaded lattice windows look out onto the platform. You can peek down the grand hotel hallways and into the lobby of the hotel; you can't help but stand a little straighter as the formal opulence rubs off. (Although sadly I was wearing my sunday best Converse and day after hairwash hair. Must go back in a frock soon.)

But back to the bar. Huge, low-hung simple chandeliers and oversized plush furniture help fill the space and keep it cosy. Sitting in a bare stone room of that scale should make you shiver, but not at all; the atmosphere was warm and luxurious. Jenny is a cocktail girl, so we went straight to the cocktail list. They were Victorian themed, perfectly calibrated to the surroundings. She settled for a warm arrack punch which smelled deliciously aromatic from where I was sitting. I had an orange juice and blood tonic soda which was satisfactorily sour.

The staff were lovely and friendly and even visiting the loos was a luxurious treat; you get to stroll down one of the hotel corridors, and freshen up in opulent style.

I had to tear myself away from the place and can't wait to go back for a longer visit. I was disappointed when I tried out the champagne bar when the station first reopened: I'd been looking forward to a Brief Encounter romantic low-lit and dark wood station rendezvous spot, but the reality is a chilly, modern bar next to the platforms. The Booking Office more than fits the romantic, cosy station bill.

Remember it's here if you need somewhere to meet in the area; there are snacks and a proper dinner menu of posh, comforty stuff. Or pay a special visit just to experience this stunning revitalised station. I can even find it in me to love the huge Olympic rings, hanging high above the platforms!

[I think I told Twitter a while back that a friend of a friend who lives in one of the apartments in the old hotel told me she can order cocktails from the bar in the hotel to her flat. The only thing that stops me actually dying of jealousy is that she also gets woken up at 7am by platform announcements. But still – the glamour!]

Picture credit 1 2 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year! I can't even believe it's 2012. Such a banal thing to say but I really can't. Last year was a hectic one for me; I moved house three times (!), got together with my husband, and got married in New York. We spent our first Christmas at home in London, which was complete heaven, and did a round trip to visit all of our family in Yorkshire. (Most of T's family live up there too.) I hope you all had a fantastic break and are several pounds heavier, like me!

I don't really do formal resolutions at New Year and at the moment am trying to work out some really big decisions with T, so I don't need to pile any more pressure on myself! We're thinking hard about leaving London; both of us have lived here for years and years, and we'd like to live in a house, not a flat. We both want some absolute peace and quiet for a while, and that's not generally something you find in this crazy city. (Just before Christmas, a cannabis factory was discovered in the house next door! And we won't go into my crazy downstairs neighbour.)

So we're thinking REALLY hard about where we might move to. Tom's work is west London based, mine can be more remote. And, I'd like to be near enough to take advantage of everything in the city still and see all my friends! We have been thinking about Canterbury, where Tom grew up, and 8 miles away from Whitstable (aka London-on-Sea). The houses are stunning there, and it would certainly be quieter. But we're still not sure. Any ideas for somewhere close to London, with good travel links, or on the outskirts, where it is quiet and property isn't prohibitively expensive?

Other than working out the Big Plan, I would like to continue doing interesting, challenging work; at the moment I am doing some social media and community management for an online mentoring site, horsesmouth, where people sign up to help others – a brilliant idea.

I'd also love to try watercolour painting, like an Edwardian lady. I've got a sudden lust to learn more about fine art, something I've always been a little bit ignorant about. I'm dying to go and check out the Turners at Tate Britain (shamefully I've never been), and fancy a bit of a splosh around myself. Tell me all the other arty must-sees in London I have to check out before I – potentially – leave town!

Oh, and I've started Pinteresting. I'm immediately completely addicted; I usually just save images I like from the web on to my desktop so this is a welcome way for me to file images. Plus I get to nosy at what everyone else is looking at. Add me if you're on there, and I'll start spying on you too.

So, wishing you all a very happy 2012! May it be kind to us all. And I hope the Olympics aren't too annoying. Hehe.

(The image above is Turner's Sun Setting On A Lake. Which I'm sure you all knew, as you're not philistines like me.)