Category Archives: Top 5

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Top 5… Dream honeymoon destinations

I am in desperate need of a holiday – today I almost cried when my alarm went off at 6.30am heralding the allotted hour for my fitness bootcamp class. I am so tired I fear that if I blink for too long I might slip into a deep sleep. I feel like words have dried up on my keyboard and my brain is flatlining – I am spent.

So my mind has turned to dreaming of our honeymoon. Andrew and I have incurable wanderlust. It’s what first bonded us – our first conversation in the pub was all the places we want to travel to (turns out they were all the same countries). We travelled non-stop for eight months when we first got together, but that was eight years ago now. Since then we’ve idly discussed our honeymoon, but now we can start the dreaming in earnest.

And at the moment it is just dreaming. We don’t need to book it just yet – our wedding is almost exactly a year away, so we don’t need to look at prices yet. We can just look at pictures and pretend six-star hotels are part of our every day lives.

So, join me why don’t you? Here’s a list of my top five honeymoon destinations:

1. Alila Villas, Uluwatu – Bali

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I’ve never been to Indonesia, but would absolutely love to go with Bali on the top of my list. Beautiful beaches, temples to explore and excellent surfing are just a few of the reasons I’d love to go. We want an active yet relaxing honeymoon, so this seems perfect.

This hotel in particular just looks amazing. Each of the pool villas has it’s own, err, pool plus a view of the Indian Ocean. They are constructed from natural materials including wood and lava stone (oooh!) and the interiors are sleek and contemporary while also looking cosy.

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2. Shangri-La Villingili Resort – Male, Maldives

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I know it’s ecologically dubious to go to these overwater bungalows, but man do they scream honeymoon or what? Maldives is a bit of a honeymoon cliché , but for good reason: crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches and blazing hot sunshine. 

The diving is also meant to be great in the Maldives, which would tick off our “active” spec. The rest of the time I think I’d be quite happy to laze around the private pool or in the overwater hammock.

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3. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is at the very top of my list of places I want to go. Everyone I know who has been there has raved about it with such fervour it’s like they’re paid commission by the tourist board. It has everything: rainforests, beaches, surfing, culture. It’s basically my ideal honeymoon destination. Andrew’s brother is in fact there right now on his honeymoon, so we’re worried about ~copying~, but hey ho!

This resort is apparently the nicest in Costa Rica. It seems a shame to go somewhere like Costa Rica and stay in an American-style resort – it’s not “us” at all, but this place does seem to tick a lot of boxes with the luxury. They also have loads of activities including paddle boarding, zip lining, volcano hiking plus an amazing stargazing experience – we are total stargazers. Maybe we could stay here for a while (a month?!) and then get some more local flavour by going elsewhere as well…?

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4. Le Sirenuse – Positano, Italy

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Slightly closer to home (which is good, as it means shorter travel time and no jet lag) is Positano in Italy. I’ve always loved the sound of the Almafi Coast anyway, but watching The Trip has really brought my desire to go to the fore. It looks incredible – the food, the weather, the scenery! Perfection!

This is meant to be the best hotel in Positano, according to Condé Nast Traveller (and who am I to argue with them?). This soaking tub looks pretty honeymoon perfect to me.

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5. North Islands – Seychelles

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OK, so this is totally over budget. If you’re into this kind of thing (I’m not at all), William and Kate spent their honeymoon here. To say it’s isolated is an understatement. You have to get a private helicopter here. But once you’re there…? WOW. Just, well, just look at these photos. I feel a bit like crying.

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The thing that really sung to me though was that this resort is based on a Robinson and Crusoe type scenario. The villas are made from naturally-fallen woods of the takamaka, rosewood and ylang ylang tree. Andrew has always dreamed of living on a deserted island – this would be his dream with plenty of luxury for me. The mile-long island is easy to get around – you’re given mountain bikes and an electric buggy. And the food is meant to be insane! There is a menu, but you can also go off piste. The chef will make whatever you want.  And it’s only €1,690 per night to stay. BARGAIN!

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Top 5… Reasons why I love London

Quite often when people who don’t live in London talk to me about how I live in London they often say, “I could never live in London,” in such a horrified tone it’s as if I have told them my pastime is eating babies or licking tramps toes.

More often than not I shrug my shoulders. Horses for courses, isn’t it. Some people want to live in the middle of nowhere, some people want to live in the town they grew up in, some people don’t want to live in any one place. Me? I want to live in London because I love it here. I don’t feel the need to justify my lifestyle choices to people just as I don’t expect them to justify theirs to me. Having said that, here’s five of the many reasons why I love London.

1. The people

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Yes, that’s right, the people. Londoners get a bad wrap; people say they’re mean, moody and impatient. And yeah, we can be, but that’s only because we have to traverse hoards of kids of school trips, provide travel advise to tourists and sweat on the tube during our daily commutes. We aren’t bad peoples deep down, and there is no better place in the world for people watching than London. All of human life is here: there’s so many different people doing different things and for the most part we’re living harmoniously together (just move down the carriage and we’ll all be friends, yeah?). I love how London embraces people from all walks of life and rarely questions what people are up to – want to walk down the street singing at the top of your voice? Go for it. Want to do the waltz to the busker in Leicester Square tube – knock yourself out.

2. The restaurants

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No massive news to most, but London’s restaurant scene is a constantly evolving, innovative place these days. Gone are the days of bad British food – people who say this haven’t been to London in time. Fancy an amazing Turkish meal cooked authentically? Pop over to Green Lanes and you have more options than you could wish for. Want some wicked-good curry in the most lively restaurant you can imagine? Tayyabs is for you. Sushi, veggie, raw, falafel-only, dim sum, Vietnamese, French-style burgers, food trucks, market stalls – there’s everything and anything you want here. I love that whatever I want, there’ll be somewhere I can go within about 30 minutes travel and fill my boots. And sure, a lot of cities have lots of restaurants (next person to show off about getting a Bill’s in their town gets a punch in the face, though), but the thriving nature of London’s dining scene means anything sub-par doesn’t survive and every restaurant is kept on their toes. It breeds creativity and innovation and I love it.

3. I became an adult here

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A handful of people I lived with in the crazy houseshare…

My first real job was in London, and after two years of commuting to Kent where I lived, I moved up here. I moved into a flatshare, which was a nightmare of horrific proportions (every time a bus went past – and we were on the main bus route in north London – it knocked out the TV reception. Also there were no windows in the house and the outside was painted gloss brown) and quickly moved out and into another one. Since then I have progressed in my career, moved in with my boyfriend, bought a flat and got engaged. I’ve made friends for life, including one who will be my bridesmaid next summer, and had lots of ups and downs. This is where my whole adult life has been. When I was at uni in Liverpool, sure I was 18 but I was a pseudo-adult (real adults are able to get out of bed before 10am); before that I was at school and lived at home, aka very much not an adult. London will always have that place in my heart that no other city will have.

4. It’s iconic

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London has led the way in so many direction, not least of all style and fashion. It’s also got some incredible designs – the architecture is truly breath-taking and the skyline is instantly recognisable with the sharp spire of the Shard next to the beautiful dome of St Paul’s cathedral. Even the transport is unique; black cabs, Routemasters and underground roundels are all synonymous with the city. Glance at a tube map and you instantly think ‘London’ – nothing else looks like it. And what a beautiful piece of design work the tube map is. It’s so inspiring to be constantly faced with all the beauty and creativity you see every day in London.

5. It’s where I got engaged

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I’m sure you’re all bored of hearing about my engagement now, but London will forever be in my heart because it’s here I got engaged. It was a very London-based affair, with the final down-on-one-knee bit happening right by a London street sign. As I only plan on getting engaged the once, it’s incredibly special to me and something I’ll always remember.

This blog was inspired by the good people at Redrow London.

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Top 5… Recipe Books

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I think I fall into a trap a lot of people do when you’re busy and feeling uninspired: I cook a lot of the same meals with semi-regularity. I mean I am a self-confessed foodie, as this blog shows, but I do have a few fall-back meals that I cook over and over because they’re easy and after a hard day at work, plus a commute and maybe a gym session: I just can’t find the energy to whip something new up.

My favourite fall-backs are chicken zorba (a really easy Greek-style meal that I’ll post up here some time), extra spicy fajitas and good ol’ spag bol. But I do plan meals a bit better now thanks to my goal of being more organised in 2014. And I’m really enjoying trying new things and adding them to my repertoire along with the old stalwarts.

And I’m a sucker for a recipe book. I pour over the pages, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over the photography and getting all excited about the new food I’m going to cook.  Quite often I read them late at night, when I have no intention of starting to cook. I just love feeling excited by possibilities. Having said that, I much prefer a functional recipe book to one that’s style over substance. I want the recipe to be clear, the ingredients to not involve getting a rocket to the moon to source some space dust and also written in a friendly yet informative way.

So I thought I’d share my top 5 go-to recipe books at the moment (they’re liable to change as I’m always buying new ones to add to our already-overflowing bookcase)…

1. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

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I wouldn’t be an Islingtonite if I didn’t bow to the foodie might that is Ottolenghi. Israeli-born Yottam Ottolenghi owns a small chain of self-titled restaurants in London, as well as NOPI. His style of cooking is a wonderful fusion of anything that captures his attention, but mainly lies in North African, Lebanese and Italian cuisine. The result is lots of delicious salads, perfectly marinated and cooked meats and veggies done in lots of surprising and delicious ways. His cookbook reflect this, as one would hope, and have lots of Ottolenghi favourites that you can make from home.

2. Hamyln All Colour Cookbook

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This 70s beauty is iconic within my family. For us, it’s one of those recipe books you hear people mention sometimes: it’s got all our the meals of my childhood inside it and just hearing the spine crack as I open my copy takes me back to helping my Mum make brownies when I was little. And I am sure it can’t just be a nostalgic hit for my family (me and my siblings all have our own copies now) – there’s so many delightful and forgotten gems in there. And also the best flapjack recipe there its.

3. Neal’s Yard Healing Foods 

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I bought this book relatively recently, but I already know it’s going to be a much-used and often-turned to book in my library. It has a wonderful section at the front that goes through a lot of different foods (fruit, veggies, pulses, meats etc) and lists why they’re good and healthy for you, what they do to your insides and all that good hippy stuff. The back section is crammed with recipes and even has a day’s menu of meals for targeting particular aliments. Although I am a self-confessed “foodie”, I have to admit that I don’t know enough about nutrition, and it’s something I am really enjoying learning about from this bible.

4. Eat, Cook, Enjoy

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Err, yeah, it’s a Weight Watchers book but WAIT! Bear with me! I only bought this book after my lovely sister-in-law cooked something for me out of it – and she wasn’t on WW either, she just liked the recipes. And most recipes are a winner. So much so, my Mum also bought the book after I cooked her a few meals out of it. My copy has the hallmarks of a well-loved cookbook: split spine (ugh, I know), splashes of food all over it, warped pages from being propped up in a steamy kitchen. Even though I am not on WW and pay no attention to the Points values, the recipes are WINNER. I love the maple chicken traybake and the citrus-crusted salmon. Seriously, none of the recipes I’ve made from it have tasted like “diet food”.

5. Delia’s How To Cook

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This is Delia’s comprehensive guide to, well, how to cook. From boiled eggs, rice, making a white sauce and how you should be cooking fish, this book is surely a fixture in every keen cook’s kitchen. Sure it has the basics of how to make things, and then it gives you recipes where you can apply the skill and maybe take it up a notch to the next level. It has loads of my meal staples in here, but the out and out winner for me is the Toad in the Hole recipe (renamed Huskies in the Drift by Andrew’s Scandinavian side of the family) with caramelised onion gravy. It’s a winner every single Goddamn time.

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Top 5… Anti-Love Films for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day draws apace like the consumerist behemoth that it is. And although I am in a happy relationship, I can honestly say: fuck that shit.

If you’re not in a relationship, V-Day (as it is rather disgustingly referred to as by those who don’t know any better) is all up in your grill making it seem like everyone else has their lives together and are in these smug, happy relationships and you’re the only one, alone with cold soup for dinner, watching Roy Cropper have an existential crisis. I know this isn’t actually what single life is like, but this is what Valentine’s Day tries to make single life seem like.

If you are in a relationship, Valentine’s Day is a guilt trip riddled with meaningless sentiment that you could do without. I am all in favour of people being in loved and proclaiming it so (as long as it’s not a. vomit-inducing or b. on Facebook – let’s keep these proclamations to weddings and birthdays, yo). I don’t want to be guilt tripped into telling my boyfriend I love him. And I certainly don’t want to do it over a three-course set menu in an average restaurant while at the same time swapping cards adorned with grey teddy bears with blue noses. It’s so unimaginative and generic, which to me is the antithesis of what love is. But if you’re not doing anything and someone annoyingly trills at you, “Sooo, what’re your plans for Valentine’s Day?” and you say you’re not doing anything  you’re met with a sympathetic look that says, “Your relationship is over”. What’s wrong with a bit of ruddy spontaneity and declaring your love as and when you see fit? I know the answer: nothing.

I don’t want it. I don’t want any part of it. Get out of my God damned face, Valentine’s Day.

So, with my thoughts on that covered off, I’ve compiled a list of films that are anti rom-coms. Sure, they’re about love but they’re realistic and will remind you relationships aren’t all flowers and love hearts. And Ashton Kutcher doesn’t start in a single one of them. So if you’re looking for something to do this Valentine’s Day and don’t fancy all the consumerist BS, I suggest you give one of these a go…

1. Closer

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Perhaps one of the most depressing takes on love in modern cinema, Closer sees a cast of four systematically break each other’s hearts and become embroiled in bitter tit-for-tat mind games. Starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts, it is perfectly acted and is at times funny, sad and romantic. Andrew and I went to see this at the cinema on our first date – it was like a warning. Luckily I have not had cause to don a pink wig or emigrate… yet.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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I think the vast majority of us have gone through a phase of wanting to delete the memory of someone from their brain; to erase the hurt or the constant over-thinking. This film explores what would happen if you could do that, with a bitter-sweet outcome. Joel (Jim Carey – but don’t hate the film for that) decides to wipe his ex (Kate Winslet) from his memory, but changes his mind mid-wipe and then tries to remember her as much as he can. Quite sweet, really.

3. 500 Days of Summer

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Bit of a divider of opinion, this film. It’s also toe-curlingly twee. Zooey Deschanel plays Jess Day a kooky lady who gets falled in love with (that’s a term) by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Funny, sweet and ultimately ending in heartbreak, this film makes you never want to fall in love. And might also make you want to kick Deschanel’s head off (and steal her hair to wear as wig. Creepy?!).

4. Brokeback Mountain

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They’re macho cowboys who are totally in love with each other, but can’t be together. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and food for though: even if you are eating your cold soup with Coronation Street, at least you’re not one of these guys.

5. American Beauty

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Kevin Spacey makes everything better, every single time – even when you don’t need things to be better. He’s like a brilliant, exciting Uncle who is fun to be around but ultimately makes you feel safe. Or is that just me? Anyway, Spacey plays a doomed suburban Dad who becomes infatuated with his daughter’s bestie, meanwhile the kid who lives next door isn’t having a laugh riot either.

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Top 5… Aims for 2014

So 2014 is in full swing now, and I’ve got some plans for it. I thought writing them down here and sharing them with the whole wide internet would make me more accountable when sticking to them. Here goes…

1. Be less busy

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At the end of last year I got in a bit of a state. I had made arrangements to do something every day and every night for about three weeks. At the end of it, I was a wreck. After a stern word from my mother and Andrew, I realised I try to cram too many things into my schedule because I’m the kind of person who wants to do everything. The result is I end up strung out and emosh. But not in 2014. I plan to block out several weekend days a month where I do nothing, and spend more time at home in the evenings after work too. So far I’ve stuck to it and I feel much more on top of things, organised and think that when I do see people I am less frantic/stressed/tired, so they get a better version of me. Win/win.

2. Travel

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I know, this is pretty standard, but I really want to travel a bit more. Not necessarily great long trips (although that would be nice, too!), but weekend trips, little jaunts – that kind of thing. So far I have penciled in a trip to the south of France to go wild swimming, and I think my whole family – there are 12 of us now! – are going on a summer holiday to Italy. I’d also like to visit Budapest, and my dream would be to go to Costa Rica, but that’s not going to happen in 2014 I don’t think. Boo.

3. Worry less

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I am a big worrier. It’s very annoying for everyone. One of the things Andrew says to me most is, “Zos, just chill out!” (which is kind of annoying – I don’t want to worry!). But I think there are a couple of things I worry about more than I should, so I am going to focus on not worrying about them. They’re not even important things, and not worth my energy.

4. Focus on my career

I had a pretty good year work-wise last year, and the most enjoyable in my career. However, instead of sitting back and letting things happen, I’m going to go out and grab opportunities. I love what I do now, and I want to build on my achievements from last year. So far in 2014, this is going well. However, I need to finish making my ~professional website~.

5. Be more organised

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I am pretty organised anyway, but it makes me feel much more relaxed if I have things planned a little. This is mostly Andrew and mine’s schedule, which sometimes is a little hectic (see above!) and jumbled. And also we’re terrible at planning meals and often end up grabbing things that are bad for us at our Sainsbury’s Local. With this in mind, we have set up a corner of our kitchen for organising our lives (see picture above). We’ll see how long this lasts before it descends into drawing immature pictures…!

I have lots more plans for 2014, but these are the little ones I am happy to share for now.

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Top 5… New Restaurant Openings in Early 2014

So 2014 has got off to a great start (ignoring the fact our roof has a leak and my train has been late every day this week). I’m not drinking in January, and people are actually sponsoring me to do this. And there’s lots to look forward to in 2014, including lots of lovely, new restaurants opening in London for me, you and the rest of London to try out.

I thought I’d compile a list of the five places I am most looking forward to visiting (in no particular order of preference) in early 2014…

1. Q Grill, Chalk Farm Road, Camden

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Q Grill will be offering a London slant on the now-ubiquitous-in-the-London-scene American barbecue restaurant. From the team behind Islington’s Fish and Chip Shop, Q Grill will see chef Phil Eagle from Hix fame serving up a range of “raw, charred and smoked favourites” including moonshine-battered shrimp, queen scallop ceviche and pecan wood-roasted chicken. There will also be a strong line in cocktails, with American spirits playing front and centre roles. With a 150-cover capacity, Q Grill is going to be a big player in 2014. Opens January 25th, 33 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ

2. The Big Easy, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden

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The Big Easy “Bar.B.Q and Crabshack” already has an outpost on the King’s Road, but February 2014 will see them opening a second branch in the heart of Covent Garden. Similarly to the aforementioned Q Grill, The Big Easy will be serving up a range of American-style barbecue dishes. Their signature dishes in Chelsea include canadian lobster; fresh crab and shrimp; a  classic chophouse burger; and surf and turf. With a huge following out west, The Big Easy is sure to be a huge hit in central London too. If you sign up on their website (link above) then you can receive more info and get an invite to their 50 per cent off soft launch. Opens February 2014, 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NA

3. Brooklyn Bowl London, O2 Arena

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Slightly more than “just” a restaurant, Brooklyn Bowl, the acclaimed NYC nightlife destination hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most incredible places on earth,” is opening its first branch this side of the pond. The venue will be in The O2 (stay with me on this, guys!) and will be a medium-sized concert venue with 12 lanes of bowling (some of which you can hire in a private area, if you hunger for more clandestine bowling…). Food will come from the Bromberg Bros. team and will include oyster po’ bos, cajun catfish, egg shooters and fried chicken. Beerheads will be kept happy with beers from the local Meantime Brewing Company. Opens January 16th, O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX.

4. Oslo, Hackney Central

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Enough American-style cuisine! All things Nordic are set to be a big blimmin’ deal for 2014, so this opening in the old Hackney Central train station is coming just at the right time. Oslo will be an all-day eatery that turns into a live music venue in the evening, with a late license ’til 3am. Alright then! Food-wise, head chef Dave Ahern will be fronting a menu that takes on strong Nordic influences. Expect pickling, smoking, curing… and I hope some kind of mushroom sauces, lingonberry… meatballs? Come on Dave, be a pal. As a massive fan of Scandinavian culture, I am very excited about this opening. Oslo opens on January 17th, 1a Amhurst Road, Hackney, E8 1LL.

5. Polpetto, Soho

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Fresh off the back of various successful 2013 openings, including Ape & Bird, the Polpo team are opening – or should that be re-opening – Polpetto on Berwick Street, Soho. Having been hugely over-subscribed for when it was first open, the new venue will seat many more people craving it’s Italian food. The same head chef, Florence Knight, from its previous incarnation, is on board at new Polpetto so expect much more of the same: delicious Italian sharing-y food, but with the added bonus of actually being able to score a reservation. Opens January 2014, 11 Berwick Street, W1F 0PL.

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Top 5… Cosy Pubs in London

As I have said before, rather recently, I love cosy pubs at this time of year. I love nothing more than heading to a warm pub, settling into a nook and drinking wine, chatting with good friends and watching people come and go.

I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 pubs to do this in, incase you want to do similar.

1. The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms

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The fire at The Swimmer

This pub is pretty close to where I live, and very much makes up part of my regular pub list. It’s tucked away behind the grim Seven Sister’s road, and is an absolute gem. It has board games, generous and yummy food, a good wine list, an open fire and even a sort-of adopted pub cat called Tallulah.

A pic of me and one of my besties (he'll love being called THAT!) last Christmas
A pic of me and one of my besties (he’ll love being called THAT!) last Christmas at The Swimmer

 

It lacks any pretension and is just a good, honest boozer without being stinky or too local. I absolutely love it here and will no-doubt be having Christmas sessions in here before long.

13 Eburne Road, N7 6AR

2. The Flask, Hampstead

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A few of us have a traditional walk on Hampstead Heath on New Year’s Day. Nothing blows the cobwebs away like climbing Parliament Hill to enjoy the view!

After a chilly walk, we normally head to The Flask in Hampstead for a mulled wine and a chat about our resolutions. It’s a small pub, but always has a lovely warm welcome. Again, it’s nothing fancy but I love that about it.

14 Flask Walk, NW3 1HE

3. Smokehouse

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You can read a more extensive review here, but this pub is the epitome of cosy. A friendly welcome, lots of people have a good time, and again, an open fire. It helps that the beer and wine list could have you busy for several days of non-stop drinking and the food is amazing – all conspiring to make you say, “I’ll just have one more, then I really must go…”

63-69 Canonbury Road, N1 2DG

4. The Hunter S Bar

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Low lighting, fun decor and a warm, bustling atmosphere help this pub feel super-cosy. The taxidermy animals dotted about and the various different seating layouts make it quirky without staying into tedious hipster territory. The food is also great, with everything made fresh in-house every day and a wide and interesting menu.

194 Southgate Rd,  N1 3HT

5. The Dove

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I’ve spent many an evening here, growing foggy while enjoying the wine list. However, The Dove’s forte is Belgium beers, and their list is probably one of the most impressive in London. The pub itself is cosy and constantly busy, with the tables set close together and the unisex loos – everything is very intimate.

24/28 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ

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Top 5… Christmassy Things to do in London

I am a bit of a grumpy lady about people celebrating Christmas too early. Christmas adverts in September, the festive music in the shops in October and special offers on mince pies in the supermarkets in November. NO! December is the month of Christmas. Even then, putting up a tree in the first week of advent seems a bit premature to me. I fear suffering from Christmas burn-out, so by the time Christmas Eve (REAL Christmas) rolls around nothing feels special any more.

Having said that, I love Christmas a lot. And now we’re past my Christmas embargo date, I am feeling well excited about all the Christmas things I have planned. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of my favourite things to do over Christmas in London.

1. Ice Skating

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Every year Andrew and I go ice skating just before Christmas. It seems so romantic. But in actual fact, ice skates seem to have been designed by a sadistic cobbler, and I feel queazy at the thought of putting my foot in a cold, damp boot that’s been on loads of other people. That’s before you get on the ice, and realise you’re more Bambi than Torvill. “We hate ice skating,” Andrew and I say to each other, “why have we come? We suck at it and it’s beyond painful!”

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However, we always go out of duty. It’s now a horrible Christmas tradition, but I kind of love it.

There are lots of places to go ice skating in London, and I have sampled a lot. My favourite would be Somerset House, followed by the Tower of London.

Afterwards I prescribe a strong mulled wine to rid yourself of the aches, pains and cold that you will have acquired.

2. Choosing a Christmas Decoration

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My Mum and I have a festive tradition where we go out together with the sole purpose of choosing one new decoration for our – well, my parents’ now I suppose – tree. We’ve done this together ever since I can remember. We spend a long time oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over all the pretty (and hideous) sparkly thing, before selecting one and scampering off for a cup of tea.

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Last year we went to Heal’s, which has the most amazing array of festive decorations (and homewares – man, I love Heal’s). It feels and smells so festive in there, and Paul A. Young has also just opened a cafe next door – ideal for our victory afternoon tea.

3. Christmas Markets

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Winter Wonderland and Southbank Christmas Markets are my favourites, but there are all kinds of festive outdoor adventures to be had in London. I love wrapping up warm, linking arms with a buddy and carefully choosing where to buy a festive feast from. And it’s all the better when it’s washed down with a heady mulled wine before getting on a fairground ride of dubious safety standards.

4. Getting Cosy in Pubs

Chequers

I love pubs anyway. They’re such a uniquely British thing, I think. Sure, everywhere has bars, but the British pub is something that just can’t be replicated anywhere else.

And in December they really come into their own. Walk in out of the cold into a blast of buzz, warmth and the scent of mulled wine. Huddle into a booth with friends and watch the sky grow dark by 4pm while knocking back festive drinks, all while you’re being warmed by an open fire. Extra great points if there’s a pub dog in the mix.

This year I’m going to the Draper’s Arms for a Christmas carol sing-a-long with friends. I cannot think of anything more festive.

5. The Nutcracker

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Every year my Mum and I go to the Nutcracker, either by the English National Ballet at the Coliseum or at the Royal Opera House. I love getting swept away in the Christmassy story and gasping at the amazing costumes.

I also love seeing all the other families who have come to watch for a Christmas treat. It feels so magical and special. I cannot wait to go this year.

Facebook

Top 5… Annoying People on Facebook

Remember a time before Facebook was released to the masses, and society was a nice, normal place where people from primary school didn’t scream in your face about potty training their child? Yeah, I can barely remember it either so full is my mind of constant updates of what someone I met once’s cat is wearing today. Facebook has completely changed the way we interact with one another, and I for one pretty much hate it. Yeah, I still have a profile, obviously, but I can still hate it.

I like Facebook for it being able to connect me to loved ones that are far away, and for us to share events, pictures, jokes without it having to be a big, formal ordeal. It is useful for reminding me of birthdays, which I am prone to forget. And I suppose it’s useful for communicating things sometimes.

However, as I might’ve said before, I still predominantly hate it. I hate it because of other people – the same reason why I hate most things. Other people have ruined Facebook. Here are the top five offenders, in my mind.

1. People I don’t care about sharing strong, and often offensive, views I don’t care for

o-SOMEECARDS-facebook

BF (Before Facebook) I didn’t know that Mike from accounts was a filthy biggot, or that Michaela from primary school was a devout Christian who felt the need to preach to everyone, every day. Now, with the advent of Facebook, it’s all up in my grill all of the time.

Yeah, I have the facility to hide people, but I only do that in extreme circumstances. This is because I live in constant fear of seeing people in real life and them saying “I’m married/had a kid/whatever, didn’t you see it on Facebook?”. I don’t know what to say then. I literally panic, go red and hope to have a heart attack immediately so I don’t have to answer. Why? Because, dear reader, I am a terrible liar – there’s nothing I am shitter at than lying. So basically because of my lack of ability to think on the spot and make up lies, I cannot hide these people and my life is plagued with people’s stupid (to me) opinions. It takes all types you say? Don’t mean I want it on my feed, buddy.

(See also: those who invite me to join groups like “ALL DISABLED PEOPLE SHOULD BE FORCED TO WORK. SCROUNGERS! LOL. YOLO. ” – yeah, not the target audience for that type of thing, thanks all the same. Welcome to the cold, stark world of not being my pal on FB anymore…)

2. “It’s a times like these you find out who your real friends are” et al

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Christ! Put a sock in it, love. These attention seekers are the worst. I find these passive aggressive updates, which are obviously aimed at some poor sucker on the person’s FB friends list who has probably made a minor indiscretion, awful. I actually cringe every time I read one. Why do people think these things are a good idea?!

If you have a serious problem with your friend, which you hope to resolve, posting cryptic crap on FB is not going to get you to your ultimate goal. If you’re looking for attention, you might get that from some of your more nosey FB friends in the form of “U OK hun?”, but essentially they’re just after some gossip to fill in the ad break between Corrie.

FB is not going to help in this situation. Ever. Chalk the whole thing down to experience and move on. Get some new friends. Whatever, just step away from FB.

3. “I LOVE YOU, WHERE WOULD I BE WITHOUT YOU?” etc

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This doesn’t have to be between those in a romantic relationship with one another, it can be between family members, friends um… that’s pretty much all the kinds of people isn’t it? Anyway, whatever the relationship it’s still nauseating. And I find it fake, and for mostly other people’s benefit.

If you like them so much, take it to a private channel where you can bleat at them all the live-long day.

4. Perma-holidayers

Basically this one is born out of pure jealousy on my part, but doesn’t it seem that some people are just on holiday all. the. time. When do they work? How do they afford this crazy lifestyle if they’re on holiday all the time?

I content myself with the fact that after soaking up so many rays they will look like this old age (look, I’m not saying I’m a good person myself here!):

Magda, from Something About Mary
Magda, from Something About Mary

5. People who use the word “frape”

You need to get a new word for that, guys. That particular portmanteau is pretty offensive.

 

Honourable mentions: Religious views, inspiration quotes, loads of video posts, private messaging in general, daily updates on some mundane aspect of your life.

P.S. Sorry to all my FB friends, I am sure I do all of these things at one time or another. Apart from the last one.

 

Top 5… Best Things About Being an “Adult”

My friends, Vinay and Krishna's, wedding. Image © Andrew Phillimore

I turned 30 a few months ago. I try not to notice people in their twenties balk when I say I’m 30 (smug gits). I try not to let my brain spiral into hysterics that I am 30 and still don’t know my left from my right, or that I struggle with the 24 hour clock (stop judging me, guys!).

So, I thought I’d make a post about my favourite things about being an adult. Here they are… *excitement builds to a palpable level*

1. Friday Nights

Busy London pubs - it's all fun and games until you need the loo and have to spend an hour fighting your way to it.
Busy London pubs – it’s all fun and games until you need the loo and have to spend an hour fighting your way to it.

Oh yeah, sure, Friday nights were fun when I was in sixth form. After a tedious A Level Geography lesson we’d go to my town’s biggest pub, Weatherspoons, as would ever other teen under 18 in the town, and drink Reef while breathing in lungfuls of hearty second-hand cigarette smoke (this was 1999). But the trouble was I had no money and had to hide in the toilets from the in turn belligerent and jobsworth-y bouncers.

But now Friday nights are better. I have money (I don’t really) and a face so craggy and old-looking that no one chases me to the loos. No one chases me full stop. Instead I pile out of work and into a pub with work friends. I stand outside for as long as possible, freezing slightly (and still getting a passive smoke in), enjoying the thought that I don’t have to answer another work email for two whole days. Or I’ll meet up with my boyfriend and we’ll go for dinner and drinks. It’s just brilliant, thinking about the whole weekend spread out ahead of you. This is much better than my teens, considering getting up and having to go and work in Topshop the next day, manning the fitting rooms and trying not to be sick in people’s faces (oh, the glory days of my late-youth).

2. No Housemates

Notes from housemates: a thing of the past
Notes from housemates: a thing of the past

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Oh don’t get me wrong, I have met some of my closest friends in houseshares (big up Number 26!) but Christ, houseshares (and other people) are grim aren’t they? I lived with eight people in Highbury for four years; I am happy to live with just Andrew now. There are no emails saying someone’s friend is going to crash on the sofa for a month, or finding my kitchen knives blunted because someone used it to open a can of beans, or crap music being played at ear-splitting volume as I am trying to cook a meal after a hard day at work. Or my clean washing being taken out of the machine and left on the kitchen floor with the potato peelings. Or people hoarding the ironing board in their room. Or people coming in and drunkenly talking through my Sky Plussed episodes of The X Factor. Or the download speeds grinding to a halt every night at 7pm, my computer struggling to buffer a YouTube video.

One of the best parts of being an adult is being able to go home, shut the whole world out, sit in your pants and watch Catfish while drinking warm white wine (I’m not saying I’m fully a mature adult here).

3. Letting Haters Hate

Haters Gonna Hate
When I was younger, I used to care if people I didn’t even like didn’t like me. I didn’t want people talking behind my back! What if they persuaded everyone I was a chump while I wasn’t looking, and I turned around and everyone had ditched me? [Ed: keep it lighthearted, yeah?] What was that all about, eh? The folly of yoof.

Now, I really couldn’t care less. I read something recently that said write a list of the most important people to you, then any time anyone judges your life if they’re not on a list then they don’t really get a say. It’s sort of true (although I’ve not written a list, that seems slightly cray). I am happy, I love my life, I have brilliant friends and an awesome family, so screw you guys.

4. Weddings

My friends, Vinay and Krishna's, wedding. Image © Andrew Phillimore
My friends, Vinay and Krishna’s, wedding. Image © Andrew Phillimore

I have gone to about 20 weddings in the last two or so years. Everyone is getting married. And do you know what? Bloody, ruddy great. I love weddings. I love watching my friends making this massive step, and being so happy. They’re all like,  “Yeah, this is my person who I am going to hang out for a long time, maybe forever – will you be happy for us please? You are? GREAT!” I LOVE speeches. I quite enjoy a champagne and canape too. I realise the weddings will slowly peter out the further I lurch into old age, so for now I am embracing them and all the chicken satay skewers I can cram in my massive gob.

5. Friends

Former Friends: Mean Girls
Teen Friends: Mean Girls

If you’re a teenage girl, friends tend to be a bit crappy, right?! It can’t just be me. I mean sure there are the core guys, the people you have remained fond of and actually enjoy seeing pop up on your Facebook feed even now. But the rubbish friends I am talking about are the moody ones, the ones who use phrases such as “I can’t believe you’ve done this to me!”, “You’ve got a bit prettier recently, but you’re still not great” and “I thought you were my friend!!!!” They get upset if you go to the cinema without them, or if you have a spotty-faced personality-less boyfriend and they don’t have a boyfriend (not even a spot-encrusted one), or if you get better marks than them. Ostensibly, these people aren’t friends, but when you’re a teenage girl fighting for survival in an all-girls’ boarding school you kind of think they are your friend.

Now, I am not confined to being friends with people I go to school with. I can meet someone and think, “Hey you’re cool” and then be friends with them (if they like me, they tend not to though… hmm). And now I am surrounded by spigging awesome people. Recently I’ve realised just how amazing my friends are, and how much richer they make my life. N’aww. Friends! They’re great, right?

Some of my amazing friends. One of them has just got married, it's not like... she wears wedding dresses for larks.
Some of my amazing friends. One of them has just got married, it’s not like… she wears wedding dresses for larks.

BEING AN ADULT IS AWESOME.

Top 5 – Most Irritating Adverts

Kevin Bacon making a twat of himself.

I’ve got Sky+ now, like I’m affluent or something (I am not). I’ve got money to burn (I haven’t) and I am going to give it to Rupert Murdoch. He seems like a nice guy. I’ve got Sky+ now so I don’t have to bother with adverts. Except you do, because I watch live TV and they either can’t or won’t invent a system to let you fast forward through life as it happens. Selfish. I blame Rupert Murdoch. I’ve gone off him.

Some adverts I can watch and not take in, and then there are other adverts that are the commercial equivalent of the sound of squeaky styrofoam. In short, they make me want to be sick and/or punch someone in the face. But I shan’t suffer through this predicament alone. Oh no. I’ve decided to share with you my top 5 most hated adverts (at the moment, I’ve had loads over the years). Here they are:

1. Kevin Bacon/EE advert

This is Kevin Bacon, off of A Few Good Men and Mystic River. He’s a pretty big deal ok. So much of a big deal there’s a thing called The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Everyone knows what this is. EXCEPT Kevin, according to this advert. What Kevin does here is links a load of random things together in a way that’s more akin to Whack-a-day’s Mallet’s Mallet than the Six Degrees thing. It makes me think, “Kevin Bacon, you are a damn fool. I hope you’ve been paid well for this blot against your name.”

2. Jennifer Aniston/Sky Broadband advert

This is in a similar vein to the above. Basically a famous actor has seen a pay check and not really thought or cared about how crap what they’re about to do is. Jennifer Aniston here seems to be a neurotic caffine-addict who hates being without the internet. She keeps swatting imaginary flies – I am guessing to make her seem a bit mental. A strange choice on behalf of Aniston. And then the cafe workers just tell her about Sky broadband and she’s like “Oh yeah! Other providers!” and goes off as if it’s that easy to change providers (I will tell you through bitter experience, it is NOT). Ugh. What is the point of this ad? To annoy me, I’m guessing.

3. M&Ms Red Carpet ads at the cinema

I hate the M&Ms animation men. They’re bloody annoying. The doltish peanut guy and the smart-guy red thing? I want to smash them up with a hammer. Harsh you say? Maybe if you went to the cinema enough you’d be feeling the same way. They are there before every film, slurping away and talking in these hyper-American adverts. And then there’s the Red Carpet segment, which is a sort of rip off of E! – and just terrible. They’re always bland and uninteresting and the presenters make me cringe. You’re talking to an animated chocolate peanut for God’s sake – HAVE SOME PRIDE.

4. Oreo/dog advert


Andrew actually laughs at me every time this advert comes on TV. I shout at the child every time. Basically, it’s a kid teasing his dog by eating a chocolate biscuit in front of him and then not sharing it. Look, I had a dog with a kid and I shared my food with him. Sure, he was fat and had a bad wind problem thanks to me, but we were best buds and that’s what kids do with their dogs who are their best friends (just to clarify, I had human friends too, I’m not weird). So to see this kid be an absolute idiot to his dog annoys me. And quite frankly, this kid does not deserve to have a dog. There, I said it.

5. Fosters advert(s)

I hate these Aussie guys. I can’t really put my finger on it, but ok I hate the lazy stereotyping, the gentle misogynistic attitude, the product, the lame jokes and everything else to do with the ad. Who are they trying to appeal to with these adverts? “LADS”? Shudder. It all makes me feel irked.

Top 5 – Prints I am Lusting After

Beautiful Otter Stamp Print (£75 from www.theboyfrost.bigcartel.com)
Beautiful Otter Stamp Print (£75 from www.theboyfrost.bigcartel.com)
Beautiful Otter Stamp Print (£75 from www.theboyfrost.bigcartel.com)

Andrew and I are currently looking to buy a shoebox flat in London. I am finding dealing with estate agents beyond frustrating, so to calm my irritation at people’s ineptitude, I look at pretty things online to go in my fantasy flat that we almost certainly can’t afford.

My main love is looking at prints. In our current flat we have so many prints it looks a bit cramped! I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’ve got a spare wall and I don’t know what to hang on it. I know less is more, so I really need to reign it in. But I thought I’d take a break from food blogging and show you the top five prints I am currently lusting after…

The first one is above. I love otters, love vintage prints, love the graphics. I’d love to have the full collection of all the British wildlife, but think that may be a little bit OTT, so I’d make do with just the otter guy.

Collective noun print by Woop Studios (£79 from www.woopstudios.com)
Collective noun print by Woop Studios (£79 from www.woopstudios.com)

I love collective nouns. I like quirky language anyway, but I especially love the humour in collective nouns. A romp of otters? A kaleidoscope of butterflies? Brilliant. Woop Studios have made gorgeous prints out of these collective nouns. I think they’d be brilliant in a child’s room. But I don’t have a child, so I’ll just have to get them for myself. I like this Zebra one especially, as I like the word “dazzle” and love the way the letters standout against the monochrome zebras. I wish that massive D wasn’t at the end though, as it looks a bit out of place.

London Fields Transport Print (£60, www.helpyourshelf.com)
London Fields Transport Print (£60, www.helpyourshelf.com)

I have a favourite art shop, it’s called The Only Place for Pictures and is at the top of Upper Street in Islington. I basically can’t walk past without going in. This print hangs above the till and tempts me every time I go in. Although we don’t live in London Fields, we have a lot of friends who do and I love the tag line “No Underground. Get over it.” I can imagine some of our friends actually saying that.

Hand-drawn map of London, by Evermade (£80, www.notonthehighstreet.com)
Hand-drawn map of London, by Evermade (£80, www.notonthehighstreet.com)

I love maps. I could look at maps for hours. I really love this hand-drawn map of London by Jenni Sparks. It’s definitely I could look at again and again and always find something new. I also love seeing where the tube lines actually run and the pops of colour it adds to the print.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea print (£25, John Lewis)
The Tiger Who Came to Tea print (£25, John Lewis)

Not sure why there’s a splodge on this one! Anyway, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr was my favourite book as a child, and has since been my niece and nephew’s favourite book too. I love the story and and wonderful, soft illustrations. It brings back really lovely childhood memories for me looking at them. I would rather the end illustration, of Mum, Dad and Sophie eating sausages in the cafe, but I couldn’t find that anywhere. Anyway, you could probably only get away with this if you did have a kid sadly.

And that is my “embarrassingly-middle class” taste in prints.

Top 5 – Blogs at the moment…

BLOG

BLOG

 

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I don’t really like a lot of blogs. I barely even like my own. I don’t like reading mediocre writing; it upsets me more than it should. I can’t see the point in people wasting their time shouting about on a blog in some amateurish fashion. And there seems to be a whole internet full of that. But sometimes I find a blog I like and I get a bit addicted and then I get why people love blogs (then I find yet another crappy one and go back to hating the world). I’ve decided to share some of the blogs I am enjoying at the moment. They’re probably really passé, but then so am I, so shut the hell up and go somewhere else.

1. Recipe Rifle

Written by journalist Esther Walker, this is a recipe blog – but there’s not a cupcake in sight. Instead, there’s lamenting about how rubbish things are and quite a bit of swearing. I enjoy both of those things – they make me laugh. And then there’s a recipe at the end, written in an accessible tone. I really enjoy the combination of reading about Esther’s life (her partner is Giles Coren) and then getting an interesting recipe at the end.

2. London Grumblr

If you haven’t heard of this then a) you obviously don’t live in London (you poor sausage) or b) have been living under an internet rock for the last year. It’s a Tumblr of gifs about how annoying London is. I don’t know what else to tell you about this, other than it makes me laugh. Oh, there’s a lot of Tiny Fey, Lena Dunham, Ryan Gosling and Jennifer Lawrence on there. They’re my favourites!

3. Cheese & Biscuits

Written by Chris Pople, this is a foodie blog reviewing restaurants. And it’s good. I like reading good writing about food. I very much enjoyed Chris’ Worst Places to Eat in London post. Oh, it is London-focused so if you don’t live in London you might not care (YOU IDIOT).

4. Cupcakes and Cherries

Full disclosure: Daisy, the editor, is a friend of mine. But don’t hold that against her. Cupcakes and Cherries is a lovely blog full of beauty reviews and anecdotes from Daisy’s life. Daisy is just about the sweetest person in the world, and you can’t help but feel a little bit happier about the world after reading a post by her.

5. Judging Covers

OK, I am a contributor (somewhat lapsed recently – oops) for this blog, but in spite of this it’s great. It’s a book review site written by a range of women – some professional writers, others who are just passionate about books. I have found all the books I’ve read in the last year on there. The reviews aren’t sponsored, and if they are review copies the editor, Nik, actively says to her writing team to not let that sway them into giving a book a good review. It’s kind of like an online book club I suppose. Where you don’t get a say. Oh there is a comments section – so you do get a say! Ha! Look, everything is catered for there.

Can you guys recommend any blogs to me? I need to get reading some more. Answers on a comments thingy below pls…

Top 5 – London Transport Annoyances

london_underground

People who don’t live in London probably get annoyed with Londoners moaning about public transport. Well, to those people I say, “Move along, buddy!” because I’m about to unleash a verbal tirade against everyone I deem an idiot on London transport. In fact, no, not everyone because there’s about 1billion of them (citation needed). I’m only listing 5 here. So feel glad. Also, you can add your own rants in the comments. It’s great pathos. Come, scream into your virtual pillows with me. The Olympics is over; normal, miserable service can resume (ugh).

1. Wheelie Suitcases

It is unfortunate that these things are normally carried by Londoners arch nemesis, The Tourist (disclaimer, I don’t actually have a problem with tourists. They bring trade and vibrancy to my city. I’m all for the little fellas). But sometimes they’re being pulled by a regular douchebag Londoner. I don’t know which are ever which, because I don’t stop to check. All I know is that I avoid anyone pulling these things like the plague.

The vast majority of people pulling them don’t seem to remember they’re pulling a 4ft tail behind them, and unknowingly take out everyone’s legs behind them. Or they change direction quickly meaning everyone behind them falls over their suitcase. Or they can’t figure out the handle mechanism and spend ages panicking at the top of the stairs because they can’t push it down or get it out again. Anyway, everything about them makes me annoyed. I feel like a git for saying it though, because I also feel deeply sorry for those who have to negotiate London with one. But still: get out of my way.

2. People Who Stop to Read Stuff /The Positions of Signs

People looking a maps – these two people are certified lovely, FYI.

I have a real problem with people stopping suddenly in front of me when I’m walking around. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. What seems to cause most people in London to stop suddenly is because they’re looking at stuff. Whether it’s a great building, or they really need to get a snap of a London bus – whatever, they stop. Mildly annoying.

What is really annoying is the way TfL, or whoever is in charge of signage in the underground, puts maps on turnings in pedestrian tunnels. This mean people stop, like lemmings, forced to work out if they want this turning or the next. And they jam up the entire hallway, meaning people are piling up back on the escalator as it delivers more and more people into the tunnel while Dennis carries on reading the map saying “I think we want Eastbound. No! Westbound. Wait, where are we going?” la, la, la.

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am at the signage planners (I think that is an actual, real job guys) and less annoyed at the clueless tourists that don’t know east from west.

3. Audible Music

Wow, this lady looks like she’s having THE BEST time with her 80s headphones.

I think this needs little explaining. Douchebags with noise-leaking-came-free-with-my-iPhone (other smartphones are available. They’re crappy, but they are availavle) who listen to crap RnB (any music, I’m not just picking on RnB fans here. OK, I am. A little) so loud. If you need to listen to it that loud, please, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, invest in some decent headphones. If you don’t need to listen to it until you give yourself tinnitus, then great, lower the vol.

Playing music outloud on phones is beyond the pale. Of course, everyone else in the carriage is too polite/scared to tell the annoying person to quit it, so everyone just exchanges frowns or eyebrow raises, secretly hoping it will encourage SOMEONE TO BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO SAY SOMETHING. Nah, no one will. They’ll just tweet about it when they’re outside.

4. Short People Hogging the Middle of the Carriage

Shameless excuse to use a press shot from the film Twins. Hey, he’s tall and he’s short. They’re still friends! Probs because Danny stayed to the sides of the carriages on trains.

I get really secretly enraged by this, but there’s no way to ever say anything to people without them getting offended because you called them short (but hey, it’s fine for them to say, “Oh my God, you’re so TALL! Were you always tall?” [answer: no. I was a kid once. I haven’t always been 6ft tall.]). But basically short people who are standing up, if it’s crowded, should stand near the outsides of the carriages. They have adequate headroom. Tall people do not, they end up with a crick in their neck before they’ve even got to work.

It’s my absolute worst when short people won’t move down the aisles in the seats because they can’t reach the overhead bars. Don’t go down the aisle then you absolute wally! Stay near the poles with the other little fellas. It means that people don’t get to get on the train if you won’t move down, making the nice people on the platform late for whatever they’re headed to.

5. “Excuse me, I need to get off” (hurrr)

We pay £120/month to travel in style like this.

There you are. It’s Monday morning. You’re packed into the tube like sardines and you can smell the dude next to you’s hangover. You pull into a station – your station. What sweet ecstacy to get out of this claustrophobic tin can! The train slows and then someone in the middle carriage starts saying “Excuse me, can I get past” while shoving themselves down the aisle. People look at the pusher with a frown, but don’t say anything. To say anything would be rude, and we don’t want to be rude to the person who has just pushed past five people. Oh no. “This is my stop!” the pusher exclaims while the tube is squealing to a holt. The doors are yet to beep or open.

What I want to say to this person is, “Alright, chill OUT! You will get off, but there’s a whole load of people also wanting to get off – including me – so just wait your God damn turn.” But what I actually do is look at them, frown and then let them past. Maybe if I am feeling especially brave I might shake my head after they’ve walked off. Yeah, I’m a tough guy.

Top 5… Places I Must Eat in London

meatliquor
Meat Liquor – dead hippy burger x2, chilli cheese fries and onion rings. YUM!

 

Over the last 12 months London has seen a surge in junk food makeovers. That is food previously dismissed as junk (burgers, fried chicken et al), which has been done badly by cynical corporate Mcchains, being restored to its former glory. Burgers with glossy buns and plenty o’ pickles, smokey and meaty hot dogs, fried chicken that’s juicy and crunchy.

I’m on this UnJunk Food badwagon heart, spirit and soul. And I plan to blog about all my UnJunk food endeavours here. I’m feeling really excited about London’s dining scene at the moment. Here are some of the places I’m itching to get to…

1. Slider Bar, Soho

Mini burgers from the folks at Lucky Chip. What’s not to like? I’ve only heard excellent things about this place. They even have an ice cream burger! Gimmicky joy! Reading Cherry Healey’s tweets about her meal there made me green with envy.

Slider Bar @ The Player, Broadwick Street, Soho

2. Burger & Lobster

Twenty quid for a burger? WELCOME TO LONDON! But £20 for a lobster? Hell-o! The concept of Burger & Lobster is simple. There are two options on the menu: burger, lobster. Both come with sides too. Both are £20. You pays your money, you takes your choice. This place has been such a hit they’ve opened at another location, in Soho. Get me there, STAT.

Burger & Lobster, Dean Street, Soho.

 3. Lucky Chip

The big sister of the Slider Bar, Lucky Chip is located at the Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green. Lizzie’s review of the place has made me desperate to go. I love the creative fillings for the burgers, and that they all have film star’s names. The Darryl Hannah fish burger anyone? I can’t wait to get my chops around one.

Lucky Chip @ Sebright Arms, Coate Street, Bethnal Green.

4. Spit & Roast

 Ahh, a food truck. Many of London’s UnJunk food establishments have enjoyed a stint as a food truck. There was Meat Wagon, Pitt Cue Co under Hungerford Bridge and Engine Hot Dogs.

Spit & Roast are paying tribute to that old southern American favourite, fried chicken. Served with potatoes and a little pot of gravy, this place has made me, a loyal burger fan, excited about fried chicken.

Spit & Roast, Hackney Homemade Market (St John’s Churchyard Carpark).

5. Big Apple Hotdogs

These guys supply my local, The Lamb, with their meaty treats. I can’t wait to go to the pig’s mouth, so to speak, to sample their smokey porky all-American hot dogs from their cart.

Big Apple Hot Dogs, Outside 239 Old Street EC1V 9EY.

Top 5 – Mad Men Characters

The cast of Mad Men (season 5)
The cast of Mad Men (season 5)

Mad Men is my all-time favourite TV show. It was love at first sight. I love the theme tune, the opening credits, the mise-en-scene, the characters, the scripts, the… I could go on. But let’s get down to what this post is all about: my top five Mad Men characters. There are potential spoilers here if you’re not up to date with Mad Men (season 5 finale).

1. Peggy Olson

Peggy Olson, played by Elizabeth Moss

Peggy is the character I always find I am rooting for. I think this is for two key reasons: she is often the character the show uses to explore attitudes towards women and their careers in the 1950s and 60s (admittedly there’s a wealth of fleshed-out female characters who also do this in Mad Men, but I think Peggy’s career has arguably been the most stratospheric rise). And the other reason is that Peggy is just so damn classy.

Characters in Mad Men go on journeys. They’re often quiet, subtle, only-hinted-at journeys, but they’re always going on. I love Peggy’s journey best out of all the characters in Mad Men. The illegitimate child with Pete, the battle with her matriarchal mother, her desire to be treated equally to men within the ad agencies and her quiet loyalty and love for someone she knows is fundamentally flawed – Don.

Peggy evokes such a loyalty from me that no other character has done in TV. She’s totes my number 1.

2. Sally Draper

Sally Draper, played by Kiernan Shipka

Sally Draper hasn’t had an easy life so far. For one she has the philandering Don Draper for a father, and for another she has a self-obsessed brat for a mother in Betty.

When Mad Men first started, Sally was a wee scrap of a thing with a lisp. Cute, and a scene-stealer for sure, but no real storylines to speak of aside from being able to make an punchy Old Fashioned for Don. Over the past five seasons, Sally has (I want to avoid the words “blossomed” or “developed” here, as they make me cringe) emerged as one of the most interesting characters on Mad Men. I love her complicated relationship with Betty – it’s so realistic of one between a teenage daughter and her mother. I love the simplicity of her love for Don, however misguided that may be. It’s such a realistic parent-child dynamic that they have set up.

I really enjoy watching Sally grow up and discover the adult world – both with positive and negative experiences. The scenes of her at The Codfish Ball (an episode that beautifully explores strained parent-child relationships) were some of the best Sally Draper moments so far.

3. Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks

Do I need to say anything more? Joan is amazing – she is strong and vulnerable all at once. I think I will be preaching to the choir with Joan. Something Mad Men does so well is to have “good” characters do bad things, and vice versa. I think Joan, with the exception of Pete Campbell, is the prime example of this. I don’t ever quite know where Joan is coming from, and I like it.

4. Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser

Pete Campbell is a grade-A douchebag, and man do I love him. I LOVE watching Vincent Kartheiser tell Pete’s story. As well as his all-round brattish personality, Pete has done many terrible things including rape, blackmail, essentially pimping out his employees and all of his extra-marital liaisons.

Pete is a mass of contradictions, and that’s what makes him brilliant. He is desperate to gain approval from Don, and yet his all-encompassing competitive nature means he often screws Don over. I love watching his arrogance played off against the fact that he is essentially completely miserable with his life. That all sounds quite negative, but I find it massively cathartic to watch his storyline unfold.

5. Roger Stirling

Roger Sterling, played by John Slattery

After all the heavy-going storylines, Roger is pretty much guaranteed to make me laugh. I love his don’t give a fuck attitude. I love how much he detests Pete. I freaking adored his acid trip storyline from season five, and his resulting epiphany. I find Roger’s love of Joan completely believable and one of the most genuine relationships within in the show (even though he has a funny way of showing it).

Disagree? Agree? Tell me in the comments!

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