Day Tripping

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Every year, my dearest magical friend Craig and I have our annual day trip to the seaside.This year, as we both turned 30, we decided to ramp up the activity a little and go away for a day and a NIGHT! This meant we could travel a little further afield, and so we chose to zoom off to Norfolk. We both crawled out of heavy busy work weeks, and were in need of coffees the size of our heads at the thought of the long journey stretching out ahead of us. I picked up a car picnic of cherries, crisps and fizzy percy pig tails and soon our zip car (named Charlize!) was heading the right way from London. The journey took about 3 hours; mainly because the one road that takes you in and out of Norwich is currently being expanded. That’s great news for future visitors, but less great for people who want to drive down it now and its single carriage is packed with road works AND slow moving tractors. We also hit the tail-end of hurricane Bertha, which made for some tricksy driving conditions.

We stuck to our California road-trip specialist subjects (Craig driving, Me navigating) but this time my role extended to passing him water and also pouring crisps into his crotch (!) so he could chow down and keep one hand on the wheel. Some things you really can only do with close friends, and this is one of them. There was a reason we chose Norfolk, and that’s because it’s where Nick & I are getting married next year. Craig is (among other very exciting roles) chief of decoration, as I really don’t have the first clue and he made his music-festival-30th look so chic. So our first stop for the night was my Gran’s house, in order for Craig to recce the venue and start making some plots and plans. As soon as my Norfolk-based family hear there might be fresh meat in the vicinity, they flock down, so Craig spent the first night having an official “induction” which involved a frantic card game of Racing Demon with my cousin, aunt, uncles and gran. At 95, my gran still thrashed all 3 generations of us.

After an epic sleep (there’s definitely something in that Norfolk air) we started the day in the best possible way. Home-made ginger cake for breakfast, followed by a lesson on the spinning wheel, which Craig previously thought only existed in fairy tales.

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Then it was time to take a scamper around the grounds where Nick and I will be getting married. I won’t include too many photos because, well no-one wants too much of a spoiler before the big day surely. The sun was shining and the flora and fauna were in fine form; we’d be so lucky to get a day like that. I picked an apple that was as big as my entire face, and I reckon will be enough to fill a pie. There’s something so enchanting about this place!

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After another slice of cake, and an hour or two of my gran telling us incredible childhood and war stories; it was painful to tear ourselves away but we really did have to get a wriggle on and do what we came to do… see the sea! Also, thanks to Craig for being my stylist for the weekend. I had stupidly forgotten a spare tee-shirt so he kindly leant me his I <3 LA one which fitted a little too perfectly and is currently being held hostage. Not quite sure I am ready to give it back! The drive from Norwich to Cromer took about an hour. My gran was born in Cromer, therefore it’s a place I visited tons as a child but haven’t been to since my teens. I stuck to tradition, and we parked on the road my gran was born on (which is also handily free parking; therefore more money for tat from the tourist shops). I had a good peer at the house where my life-idol came into the world, the original name “Yerbury” is still etched into the gate, which is also my mum’s middle name in honour of it.

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Our first effort to fully de-Londonify ourselves was to head out towards Over Strand, where the beach is nestled next to miles of wild scrub. I love that Cromer has shingles and pebbles, but also soft sand and rock pools. We walked as far as we could see, stopping to scavenge for shells and to hunt for anemone. It was amazing how quickly we left the chaos of the town centre behind and were soon alone with the lapping sea and ramshackle abandoned beach huts.

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I don’t know how we manage it, but every year our day trip takes place in a different month and a different day, but whatever the weather forecast (usually beefy thunderclouds or remains of hurricane) we get tropical temperatures. As we stared out to sea, I felt the most at peace since I came home from travelling. You don’t need to get on a plane to find that sunny sweet spot when we get summers like this. The one thing I haven’t missed about UK beach offerings though, is these pests. Creepy wormy weirdos!

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After a good dose of salty air and stomping around, we headed back to dry land to explore the pier. Cromer is the only pier in the UK to still have a regular Pier Show, although we weren’t organised enough to catch it. We also discovered that the thing to do at Cromer pier is to go crabbing! Every inch of pier-side was packed with families who were hanging fishing rope off the edge, with bacon on the end to tempt crabs into the nets. The unlucky crabs are then collected in a bucket in order to show off to everyone else how many have been snagged. I wasn’t sure what the point was, so asked a local man who recoiled in horror when I asked if he ate them (Cromer is famous for it’s crab!) but these were just little nippers and he told me they catch them for fun, but they are all chucked back in the sea at the end of the day.

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By this point in the day we both had a hive-mind desire for one thing, and one thing only. A GIANT fish (and chips). We found somewhere called the No.1 Fish & Chips, so we figured that must be the best in town and we were not disappointed. We tucked into the feast whilst gazing back out to sea and with sand between our toes; which I swear improves the taste by 80% at least. It’s so special when you have a friendship that never suffers an awkward silence. Even after spending 36 hours together back-to-back, we were nattering none stop. It feels like we never run out of conversation, I guess because we are at that age were lots of big life things are happening; which need endless analysis – in between chip mouthfuls.

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After a doze in the sunshine and a stop off at the amusements and funfair, it was time to bid Cromer farewell. I was tempted by the teacups but have learnt from sickly experience that swirly-round-&-round rides do not mix well with having just eaten a giant fish dish. This has definitely been one of my favourite day trips of all time; as the town and beach were just the right amount of buzzy Vs busy; and there seemed to be an infectious good mood in the air. Almost everyone we passed smiled, said hi or just looked happy with life. This is something that is sorely missing from the London rat race sometimes! This, coupled with my gran’s endless wise sage advice and life lessons, left us both really inspired and feeling zen as we headed back to the M11. I say this every year, but I really need to do this more often. A day at the seaside felt as good as a holiday.

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If you’ve never visited Norfolk, I highly recommend it. And if you have, but never went to Cromer, then do that too! Just remember to pack your sunglasses.

Read all about or previous day trips here:

2013: Rye & Camber Sands

2012: Reculver

2011: Isle of Purbeck

2010: Eastbourne

 

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Every year, my dear friend Craig and I have our annual day trip. It used to be a tradition with our “team 3 is the magic number” magical third Ali (here we are in Eastbourne, here we are in the Isle of Purbeck) but now she is living it up being an arty boss lady in Winnipeg so we have to maintain the tradition and just imagine she’s along for the ride (although it’s never quite the same).

Year in, year out, we start the debate early about where on earth to go. Usually there are zip cars and mix CDs involved (a particular highlight was listening to “Go West” on repeat as we drove to Dorset…) but this year we needed somewhere we could easily travel to by train from London which narrowed the options down to an easy selection. In the end, we opted for Rye & Camber Sands. I’ve been to Rye briefly, during a wintery weekend away to Winchelsea, but I just skirted the edges for a hot chocolate before sneaking back to the warmth of my beautiful rented cottage. I’ve been keen to return ever since, then the coastal Camber Sands was a whole new discovery for both of us. The adventure really started in London, as to venture to Rye you catch the HIGH SPEED train from St Pancras to Ashford (then change onto a little rickety local train to whisk you to Rye). The high speed train whooshes through all the Eurostar tunnels, so that + pan au chocolats & sugary mochas was the perfect giddy solution to waking us up on our early morning start to the 2013 day trip.

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Rye is a chocolate-box, quintessentially quaint British town. These are just a handful of beautiful buildings we pottered past as we explored the cobbled streets and nosied in a few shops packed with that kind of useless but gorgeous vintage tat that we both could spend a fortune on; vintage coastal seaside postcards, ladybird learn to read books, bird print pinnies… The church in Rye has a tower that you can pay £2.50 to climb to to top of and apparently take in a panoramic view. I wanted to save my money for cockles and whelks (!) but it’s worth hunting out if you do visit. There is also Rye castle, which at £4 again we gave a miss as we were short on time and funds, but it was fun to explore even just the outside. Rye is bursting with wild flowers and pastel colours and nautical niceties and we were gasping and instagramming around every corner! It doesn’t get much prettier than this.

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A helpful, very cut-glass accented lady in the Tourist Information office (handily housed inside ANOTHER cute trinkets shop) gave us the knowledge we have woefully failed to Google/sort out during the week which was; is it possible to walk to Camber Sands. The answer was yes (phew!) lucky since our whole day revolved around some seaside action. Saying that, I think you could easily spend a day in Rye if you didn’t want to take in the sea air. To get to Camber Sands you can either walk along a very easy to navigate cycle path, or there is a bus every 2-hours (this ain’t London!) between Rye and Camber Sands which you could wait for. We were told the walk would take us 45 minute but it was more like 1 hour 30 minutes and that’s trotting at London pace. I would really recommend the walk though, as it takes you past the Rye harbour, through some sheep-filled meadows, out into wildflower wilderness and then eventually into the sand dunes. Craig wasn’t too sure about the sheep, mind. How is he going to cope with the creatures when he visits us in Guatemala..?

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I have no idea what I expected from Camber Sands. I know it’s where All Tomorrow’s Parties hold (held, sniff) their festivals and I thought the name sounded very tropical. As we approached, vast sand dunes towered in the distance and this made me happy as I love a proper sandy beach over prickly pebbles any day. The first place we passed was the Pontins holiday camp – which has certainly seen better days. I would have actually thought it was derelict from the state of the dusty old signs, creaking gates and dilapidated apartment blocks… but then we saw some kids running about in an empty swimming pool so I am assuming it’s still open. This theme of the glory days being long gone, runs through the centre of Camber Sands. It definitely has seen better days and I imagine in years gone by it would have been one of the ultimate coastal destinations. I love the rickety signs, the old-fashioned shops and the ghosts of what might have been, it feels like going back in time in a way.

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It is NOT a proper chippeh unless there is one of these fish wall-charts on the wall. I remember the one in the fish & chip shop back home was even laminated! We’re classy like that in Bradford. Clutching our bags of cod and chips we marched off towards the beach. The beach was beautiful, but absolutely heaving with families and kids and swimmers and surfers and sun worshippers. Wanting to snatch a bit of calm to eat in peace and people-watch, we staggered up one of the sand dunes. We perched at the top and inhaled our feast barely stopping for air, then lay back and watched the seagulls swooping and the kites dancing from the beach below.

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In case you can’t quite make it out, the carrier bag claims Fish & Chips are “The healthiest meal for all the family”! All that batter and friedness ey? Not quite sure this is Ofcom approved. After a poke around the tourist tat shop and resisting buying a bucket and spade (I don’t think I’ll really need one on the Amazon) we decided to get the bus back to Rye. We walked back through the residential areas which had some sweet little cottages and every garden was teaming with flowers, butterflies and kitsch decorations. We were planning to just head straight to the town centre and have a cuppa in a tearoom before catching the train. However, from the top deck of the bus, we spotted some sort of festival happening on the harbour so raced off the bus to investigate instead.

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It turns out we had just stumbled across the annual Rye Maritime Gala! Which consisted of stalls, food stands, tombolas, a local band murdering Mumford & Sons (!) and the best bit of all.. a group of pirates singing sea shanties. We treated ourselves to 99’s, although I dropped mine in the dirt after two bites. Is there anything sadder!

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The gala was such a perfect end to a glorious day trip. I can’t recommend the Rye/Camber Sands combination enough, especially if you’re based in London and need an escape. We both felt like we’d had an actual holiday, it’s amazing what a combination of sea air, sandy chips and sunshine can do for the soul.

I noticed that Craig features in the last two blog posts, hello five minutes of fame! I’m really going to miss his face whilst I’m on the other side of the world. We are having our farewell night out tonight (as he goes on holiday this weekend and isn’t back until I have left London, what sad bad timing!) and accidentally ruined it by gatecrashing a media party at Soho house and drinking the free bar on empty stomachs. I’m a very special shade of green today as a result.

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I’m definitely getting to that age. As I write this my beloved cousin is in a very protracted labour with her first child, and I am flicking through a summer schedule of hen do’s, weddings, 30th’s, 40th’s and baby showers. It feels like suddenly life has shifted slightly and VERY BIG THINGS are beginning to happen to my nearest and dearest! This weekend was no different. I met my friend Jenny when I worked a part-time job at Cineworld when I was 18. We instantly clicked, and spent a long sticky summer working away in our unflattering baseball caps serving popcorn and cleaning up movie mess. The job didn’t last long, but our friendship has been a permanent fixture and she’s been one of those friends who’ll drop anything if I need her. This weekend was her hen do, as she is getting married to an amazing guy in August. I can confirm he is amazing because he bought me Ghostbusters 2 on DVD for Christmas.

Jenny’s hen do took place in York, so on Saturday we went to the races! I’ve never been to the races before and was so excited to try something new. I’m sure some of you have views on the animal rights side of horse racing, which I completely respect. I exist in an ignorant bliss that the horses are treated like treasures and given a wonderful life outside of the racing element (cynically, because they are worth so much money if nothing else) but for all I know this could be woefully wrong. However, York Races is a flat run, so no jumps and no injuries occurred the whole time I was there. After a week of doom, gloom and grim rainy weather, we were incredibly lucky to have a day of blazing sunshine and balmy heat. I can imagine the event isn’t such a fun affair if you’re cowering under a Racing Post and shivering in your gladrags!

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We had opted for the champagne garden pass, which meant as well as being able to head down and watch the horses in action, we could take a seat and sup bubbles in the sunshine. I actually enjoyed this part as much as the racing itself. I’m not really one for a decadent lifestlyle, this much is obvious by the fact I still consider Nandos a real treat, so the opportunity to people-watch swarms of ladies and gents  in their finery and drink champagne at 2pm in the afternoon was really novel! I had a new frock to début for the occasion. I mentioned in my last post the Love Birds blouse from Sugarhill Boutique which I bought last month. They kindly offered me another item from their haven of print gorgeousness to review on here, so after ages umming and ahhing I thought it would be nice to pick something I could wear for the hen do. My eyes and heart immediately set on this Butterfly dress. As well as the really unusual butterfly shape for the back and front, I adore the heart print and scalloped edges. The dress is hand-crafted in Bali with intricate cutwork, butterfly embroidery and heart print batik. The hand crafting means all the hearts are slightly different shapes and sizes and it has a real one-of-a-kind feeling to it. I paired it with some cream wedges and a pearl 1920s headpiece (no hats, sorry!) and felt brilliant all day. The light cotton kept me cool as I sweated it out roaring at the horses, and it didn’t have a single crease despite me being up and down like a yoyo topping up my champagne glass. Thank you Sugarhill Boutique for giving me the opportunity to shine in one of your designs, and if you fancy treating yourself to something from their website you can bag 10% off by signing up to their newsletter.

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The dress has a real playful element to it, so in-keeping with that I took it one step further with my handbag choice. Last week I met my BBFF (blogging best friend forever. sorry, we are twee!) for a cheap and cheerful Zizzi’s in central London. Kate was carrying this little beauty around with her. Cue lots of silly photo opportunities, where we pretended to be the feline Daft Punk. In my usual style thievery fashion I demanded to know where it was from! Kate let me into a little secret which was… it is a £4 Primark special. The nugget of thrifty wisdom Kate imparted on me is that in Primark (and other highstreet shops) you have to check out their “Tablet Case” section. This “clutch bag” is actually a tablet case.  It functions perfectly as a clutch and the wide design has plenty of space for cameras/phone/giant purse etc!

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Back to sunny York! Apart from a yearly flutter on the Grand National, where I learn all the terminology and jargon and then entirely forget it again by the next year, I don’t have a clue what I am doing when it comes to bets. This was quite obvious by the fact I accidentally bet £20 on my first trip to the bookie stand, when I meant to bet £10 (I forgot that each-way costs twice as much). One of the hens had an uncle who rang in with some last minute tips, so I used a mixture of these and then the standard “who has the nicest outfit colours / which name is funny” method of selection.

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For race one I had a case of beginners luck. My pick (who I betted each-way on – meaning you win if they place first or second) came in second place. He had been a total outsider so the odds were in my favour and my £2 turned into a very nice £7.90. This soon vanished back into the bookies pocket though and for the next four races my horses went from bad to worse, to the point where my pick didn’t even make it out of the traps! Just turned around and wandered off for a munch on some grass instead. I can’t say I blame him. After drinking an entire bottle of champers to myself, I decided to take a new, bolder approach on horse selection. I thought perhaps I should watch the jockey parade and pick the scrappiest looking jockey. So I opted for this guy.

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Unfortunately I still didn’t win big so decided I should retire early, because you know you’re in trouble when you start putting £2 bets on your credit card. Although the betting made each race extra exciting, I still enjoyed watching the races that I hadn’t taken a flutter on. The atmosphere at the races is electric, the air filled with shouting and cheering and that feeling that anything could happen. There are obviously people who attend every weekend and take it all extremely seriously, and I think it’s always nice to submerse yourself in a culture that you know nothing about.

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We were at the races from midday until 6pm, so needed some mid afternoon nourishment. And lets be honest, something to soak up all that flowing alcohol! There was tons of choice for cuisine, but we stumbled across a huge grand dining room with walls adorned in oil painted horses, gold prize cups and rosettes. They had an amazing offer of all-you-can-eat afternoon tea for £7 (yes, you can tell I was not in London any more! Add a 2 to the front of that for a London price of the same offer!) so we took a seat and gorged on endless mini sandwiches, sausage rolls, tiny fish shaped salmon en croute and all the chocolate eclairs we could stuff in our cheeks. It’s hard to believe as I sit her typing and listening to the rain beat down outside, but it was also nice to take a break and sit in the shade at this point of the long hot day. The rest of the hen do was just as fantastic as my first ever Races experience. I think any night that ends in you enthusiastically dancing and singing along to Ghetto Superstar at 2am is a winner.

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Dear Deer

Last weekend I went to say hello to the deer who live in Richmond Park.

Now I have sampled all London parks and have strong feelings on the winners and losers. One of the top winners is Richmond Park because it is so rough and wild feeling in places. Also because of the roaming deer which turn an afternoon stroll into a sort-of safari adventure!

Just watch out for the yknow-what under foot.

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You may remember me saying last month how I’d managed to get tickets to the incredible Battersea Arts Centre Twin Peaks Weekender which happened this weekend. So this was me, dressed as my icon the Log Lady at 9.30am on Saturday morning and then travelling across the whole of London, on various modes of public transport, attracting some pretty weird looks. If you don’t know what Twin Peaks is (or that it’s my favourite television show in the history of the world!) you need to stop reading this instant and go and buy the recently released Definitive Gold Edition Boxset! and have your own marathon, and come back when you’re done. Ok! I’ve never really been a fangirl of anything (not Take That, or East 17, or Anime, or Star Trek etc) so there has never been an opportunity for me to legitimately go to any sort of fan event. Until now!

I have to say above anything; how well organised this event was. I have massive respect for the BAC who from the slight ticket-gate nightmare (all tickets sold out in two hours, & the insane demand for them crashed the entire system!) through to the actual event… every piece of communication (weekly emails from the Bookhouse Boys in my inbox!) and instruction was so authentic and spot-on.

The premise of the event was to show every episode of the glorious Twin Peaks back to back, in a 32 hour Lynch ‘lock in’. The whole of the amazing art centre was dedicated to the event so as well as the screening in the Grand Hall, there were various art installations, fan shrines and activities to discover as you snuck around the warrens of stairs and corridors inbetween episodes.

   

   

On arrival we got the plan for the evening (episodes had to run to a strict schedule so this didn’t turn into a week-lockin! but there was an extended break between 7-9.30pm to give time to explore all the other activities and stock up on cherry pie!) We were also given an edition of the Twin Peaks Gazette packed with clues and hints to look out for and our official #Lynchlockin wristband. The event was a great example of Twitter at its best – with the #Lynchlockin tagged tweets appearing on a huge screen next to the RR Diner (Love!) and it was amusing to be sharing the experience with so many strangers over the power of my iPhone. The BAC official twitter-ers also did a great job joining in and spreading the important news such as where to pick up your Lynch Lunch Bag (including brie baguette option, of course!)

On arrival you could also pick up your first of many free donuts (I’m sure Krispy Kreme didn’t exist in Agent Coopers day, but if it did then sure he would have thought they were damn good donuts!) and your official Lynchlockin mug which also allowed you unlimited free coffee for the entire event. Which was certainly needed.

The marathon screening was in the grand hall and it resembled something of a hurricane-crisis-centre or bomb evacuation! Row after row of sleeping bags, pillows and a few sneaky airbeds (so jealous) as people pitched up with whatever would keep them warm and comfy for the duration as the seating was just a vast wooden floor. Not comfortable! We arrived woefully under-prepared with just 2 pillows and a cushion. Woops.

Thankfully it wasn’t just me in costume. As well as knitwear and plaid shirts as far as the eye could see, there were some amazing efforts such as the One Eyed Jack hostess, a suitabled harrowed looking Ronette Pulaski, a few great garish Dr Jackobys, two terrifying Bobs (one of whom was sat near me, seriously nightmare inducing!) and lots of cheerleaders, dapper agent coopers and a couple of moustached Bills. My costume lended itself well to long periods of sitting still, but my log STANK. (It was also more of a twig compared to the Log Ladys chunk) It smelt like a whole world of putrid damp dankness and despite fabreezing it with Thai Orchid Fabreeze (!) and giving it a good airring, the musty smell followed me round all day and I occasionally found a stray woodlouse or creature scuttling off it onto my arm. Oh the glamour!

   

All the areas of the Art Centre were aptly named, such as the RR Diner, the Black Lodge and the Twin Peaks Visitor Centre and around every corner you spotted Owls or quotes or clever little nods to TP life. After watching ten hours of epidoes, the two surreal worlds definitely started to blur into one.

   

   

   

It was really fun watching Twin Peaks on a lovely big screen (as apposed to my struggling, stuttering laptop!) and also with so many other fans. There were great moments when the crowd erupted in cheers or claps or panto-boo type noises. It was also the special, friendly atmosphere you get when everyone has gathered somewhere with the same intentions and interests, so I quite often got chatting to strangers in the coffee-queue or whilst wandering around and had lost of great geek-outs about favourite characters or moments and also learnt from one red-room-clad boy about  the Double R Clubnight that happens the last Thursday of every month at Bethnal Green Working Mens Club. I will definitely be heading to that!

   

So 5 cups of coffee down, and with a bum that has never felt SUCH pain (way past pins and needles, way past being a bit numb…) it was time for the interval where I could properly explore. There were various amazing activities set up but my three personal favourites were: 1. Log Lady Life Drawing! Like arts & crafts at playgroup, for grown ups! There was a wealth of drawing implements and inside the member library, a naked life model posing with a Log. I’ve never tried life drawing (as you can probably tell by my very poor effort) but it was great experience and all the representatives running it from London Drawing were very helpful and encouraging!

2. Dance with Laura. This was one of the fan shrine pieces and was so simple but effective. (Someone sarcastically told us as we walked in Oh yeah, this is not to be missed, which annoyed me because it was such a brilliant idea and I think that person had really missed the point!) The room was set up with the record player and Lauras iconic photo in a frame. You could put on your track and dance with Laura just like Leland in this iconic scene.

   

3. Wrapped In Plastic. This great art installation was being monitored by a rather strict door attendant who fed us blood covered (the blood IS edible!) donuts as we queued to enter, as it was 2 in at a time. You couldn’t tell at all what lay inside as you queued and we saw a few people get antsy and give up but boy was it worth waiting! Inside was an incredible set up, absolutely filled with smoke machine mist you could visit the coffin in which Lauras body lay and the room was painted with the red room zigzag flooring and walls. I wish we could have stayed in there longer as it was so detailed. Sorry for the shoddy photos. iPhone crummy camera + smoke machine = zzz.

   

Oh and the Twin Peaks QUIZ! With clips and everything! Where knowing such minuatae as the first character to appear in the pilot and the type of bird Waldo is came in useful, finally!

Ok this post is turning out to be as long as the weekend so I will end it there. But all in all an absolutely incredible experience (if a little chilly and uncomfortable at times) and it was quite devastating to leave and rejoin life away from Twin Peaks Population 499. (Although nice to get back to my purring, cuddly, feline Agent Cooper!) Can’t we just do it every weekend please?

Battersea Arts centre informed me today that throughout the weekend they got through 140litres of milk, 45 loaves of bread, 700 eggs and 400 cans of coke! I just have to mention again how incredible the staff at BAC were too. All the front of house staff and presenters were endlessly patient and chirpy and something that could have descended into sleep-deprived, Lynch insanity induced crazyness was just completely well organised and smooth. There were never too many people in each area despite it being such a busy event, so you could easily sneak off down a dark passageway and find yourself completely alone with a huge owl sketch! BAC is such an incredible location and with fantastic content so even if Lynch-lockins aren’t your bag, I would recommend a trip down there.

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As I mentioned, a few weeks ago the magic three daytrippers lost one point of our triangle of fun times. Ali has moved to Goteborg, Sweden and therefore any future day tripping will mostly likely take place… er there! So that will be fun. I hope I see a bear or a wolf (from a distance).

Anyway inbetween packing up her wordly possesions and learning how to say JAG er ny här bli trevlig till jag behaga (er, meant to be I’m new here please be nice to me; but upon closer inspection of my really terrible swedish means I’m fresh here be nice to self which might not encourage new friends!) we managed to squeeze in one last London based day trip.

First stop was the London Transport Museum. Now you might read that and think snoooooze, but this place is seriously amazing. Transport is trendy! As a Londoner you clock up on average seven hours a week at least hurtling around deep underground on the tube (and that’s if you have a sweet 30 minute commute like me) so how can you not be slightly curious by how this monsterous network of tunnels and trains came to exist. It’s not just the invention, you can learn all about transport used during the war, revolutions and trends in travel. And if engineering and industry is not your thing, then you can pretty much see every poster, map design and artwork used since 1800 and they are absolutely amazing. I think my favourite are Adrian Allisons work from the 1930s with posters like this. There is an incredible online database of artists and artwork here if you aren’t near Covent Garden for a visit in person.

That’s the museum, what I haven’t mentioned are the two best bits of any museum… the gift shop and the cafe of course! And London Transport Museum has top examples of both. The cafe is a tranquil retreat in the middle of bustling weekend central London, as it never seems overly busy.

The seats are upholstered in traditional London Underground fabric (the kind that really prickles your bum if you have a summer dress on, let me tell you) and has a really quaint little menu – including smoothies themed around the various tube lines. I think we all tried to stick stubbornly to our respective tube lines that we live on! And I very much enjoyed a District line limey apple affair. Where else in London can you buy marmite on crumpets either? It was the perfect afternoon snack to accompany Alis present giving ceremony!

The gift shop is a dangerous place as you could easily end up with more transport related items than you could physically fit in any home. From giant poster prints, to tube map covered crockery, to an entire sofa covered in the traditional tube seat ‘moquette’ – again in your preferred line (East London line for me. Orange and Brown tetric cubes!) And it was in this shop that we discovered the joy of naughty bus! The best childrens book in the history of the world. I instantly added it to my amazon wishlist which is slowly starting to consist of more childrens books than anything else. Oops. (Burglar Bill, Each Peach Pear Plum & The Bad-Tempered Ladybird are all on there too!)

My tube geekery is definitely on the up and I stumbled across this amazing blog Going Underground to add to my reader, which features the serious stuff (strikes, maintenace, grr!) but also lovely anectodes and sightings on the tube as well as events and things to look out for.

We then headed just a quick walk around the corner to Hope & Greenwood. I think Ali might miss this place more than me or Craig! We will have to definitely post her H&G goody bags to keep her spirits up.

They are definitely the original and the best old fashioned sweet stockist, and the entire shop is an experience in itself. The smells, the bunting, the tasters and the jar after jar of beautiful sweets. I absolutely adore all the packaging and tiny details that they put into making everything as authentic as possible.

Do not fear, Craig and I will continue our day trips and adventures so I have things to report back on, but it will be with a slightly heavy heart (and sore fingers and thumbs from texting Ali constantly while we do it!). She has left us in care of her KITE! So that is top of the list for an autumn antic once I’m back from holidaying.

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Me and my day trip buddies had planned this trip months in advance, picking a day at random and scribbling in our diaries on the train home from the seaside in April. This time we wanted to take our day-trip relationship to the next level. We were ready to commit, we were ready to invest seriously. We were ready for… BENSON! (our street car hire car) We made a shortlist of potential locations and after lots of umming and aahing, Ali came through with Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. As the day approached, England was in a pretty good state of affairs. Blistering heat and glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Until you reached our day-trip day on the five day forecast for Dorset and the summary was “Chilly, with beefy rainclouds“. Luckily, like with many things (eg. the time bbc weather told me Bestival would have a mini-heatwave. In reality there was a freak storm, followed by a typhoon, followed by people being airlifted to safety from the knee-deep mud…) they were wrong. And thus followed… the day of perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 After a 3 hour drive and listening to Go West a few more times than necessary, we boarded the ferry that took us from mainland Dorset onto the peninsular . Our first stop was Corfe Castle which is a quaint little chocolate box village with a beautiful ruined old castle sat overlooking it. It’s apparently what Kirrin Island in the Enid Blyton books is based on, which made the fact we climbed up to the top for some jolly wholesome exploring and picnicking even better. Ali had made the most amazing picnic – to make sandwich bread you buy a Tiger loaf, empty out the middle and then fill it with your favourite fillings (more the merrier, I think we had cheese, ham, pickle, tomato, black olive spread & hard boiled egg!) then when you arrive at your munching location you can just slice it and ta-da instant, perfect sandwiches. We had a flask of ice tea and punnets of huge strawberries and raspberries. We met some mountain beasts (ok, brown sheep) and moseyed around the village shops before getting scared because it appears their thing is scarecrows and pretty sinister looking ones at that, with pipe-cleaner glasses. I have an irrational fear of scarecrows and it was beginning to feel like we were in the Wickerman, so made a hasty exit.

 

Isle of Purbeck was enchanting because we kept stumbling across incredible things when we least expected it. For example we pulled into a standard looking Co-op to use the cash point and behind it we found this vintage steam railway that looked straight out of a film set. By now we were getting itchy beach feet and the sun was like nothing else. Total Hawaii weather. We pulled up at a random path that looked sandy and started trekking towards what we hoped was a beach. 20 minutes of walking barefoot on scorching sand, through ferns & forests and past lakes and not seeing a soul… we spotted the sea! And white sands! And… a large angry looking naked man! 

We had managed to locate the ‘famous’ (apparently) nudest beach, and boy was it busy. We had no option really but to skulk along the dunes, trying to keep our eyes on the horizon, but the naked people seemed very keen to run past/towards us and I definitely saw more wobbling male genitalia in that 30 minutes than my entire life up to that point. We paddled past the nakeds and towards a more clothes-friendly part called Shell Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main aim of daytrips is always to sample the local fish and chips, and we found a place in Swannage that definitely fitted all my requirements called ‘The Fish Plaice” and with a surly 12 year old looking waitress who we had to practically use brute force to get to actually acknowledge our presence and take our order! The fish was lovely but the batter was greas-ee. A chocolate milkshake and OD on tartare sauce helped. Also +points for the 20p bread and butter slices on the side. For pudding? A polystyrene pot of shrimps from a kiosk on the pier, that scared Craig so much that if I chased him with them he screamed a bit.

 

The sun finally set and on route home we stopped at a pub in Wareham to laze in their beer garden and eat homemade Dorset apple pie with cornish clotted cream. Even the 4 hour journey home (big bad motorway accident, boo) and then the fact I missed my last tube and had to stomp my sandy feet through the mean streets of Bow at 11.30pm couldn’t wipe the fresh-air smile off my face. The phrase ‘staycation’ used to filll me uncertainty, but I really doubt you could find prettier places across the whole of Europe as the Isle of Purbeck. I’m sure we only scraped the surface and I’m already plotting my return.

We only have one more day-trip of the summer left, before Ali abandons us for a life of Fika and Ikea homeware in Sweden in August, so any location recommendations welcome.

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Lately I needed to plan a special surprise for someone I had already used up all my best ideas on the previous birthdays, festive times and other celebrations and was totally STUCK. I thought about our shared interests and settled on ghosts, scary things, being scared… things that go bump in the night. I thought about ghost walks in creaky old towns or spending the night at a haunted inn. Then I stumbled across Dusk Till Dawn Events and it was a no brainer. The description was vague: 8.30pm – 4am in an allegedly very haunted stately home (now museum) Bolling Hall doing all manners of ghost hunting. A few clicks and gulp when I entered my visa details and we were booked on….. and then I started to get THE FEAR. I have to admit to a few sleepless nights running up to the event on Saturday, as I have been known to get so scared in my own flat that I’ve slept in the bath (why that is somehow safer I dont know?)

We rocked up at 8.30pm and were met by an instantly smiley, bubbly girl Jo – our host for the evening – who showed us to our base room the room where we could return any time for teas, coffees, biscuits and inbetween vigials to gossip about what we’d seen and heard.  The fact the base room had severed deer and boar heads on the wall… well, just slightly un-nerving. But hey at least they weren’t the heads of previous ghost hunters who met sticky ends.

There were about 25 other people on the ghost hunt, mostly fellow newbies to the whole thing. Various ages, backgrounds and from all over the UK but all equally friendly. Jo was joined by Joanne, our medium for the night. I instantly warmed to her as she was quick to alliviate any silly fears that had prickled my brain  eg. NO a spirit will not follow you home, NO you will not be possessed, NO the idea is not for you to spend the night so paralysed with fear that you cannot enjoy yourself! She also educated us on the difference between Residual Hauntings (where a ghost is played over and over almost like a video projection) and Intellegent Spirits who are aware of the living world and therefore can communicate – through noise, moving objects etc. The first spooky moment of the night happened when Joanne was mid explanation of Residual Spirits and said …so they definitely cannot communicate with you which was promptly followed by a large, rattling knock, knock that exploded into the hall! Cue lots of nervous laughter and a sign that we were in for a very active night. After our introduction a nice chap from the Bolling Hall staff team gave us a tour of the museum, including usually closed to the public areas – making a museum geek like me very chuffed.

Rather than dry historical facts he told us tale after about the ghosts and spirits that were reported in each room through history, along with a few first hand sightings and recent reports by staff and local dog walkers! It was about an hour long and definitely geared us up to hunt out some of the nicer sounding ghouls (the 8ft tall angry Victorian man with a huge butchers knife however, I was very much hoping not to bump into..)

We then were given various ghost hunting tools (dousing rods, temperature gages, laser guns, electronic frequency recorders, crystals…) and allowed to scamper off on our own in pitch black museum with just our torches for company. I definitely got some interesting readings and close encounters with things that then turned out to be part of the museum decour (stuffed dogs?!) . This was followed by three hours of vigils. We went into various rooms where for an hour Joanne or Jo would attempt to contact the spirits and encourage them to communicate. The scariest of these was in the Red Room where mid vigil, the door FLEW open and I had a real scooby doo moment of jumping on whoever was closest! There was also a huge amount of knocks, flickering lights and spooky goings on.. and just a few “WHAT WAS THAT?!” … “Sorry, just my belly grumbling” to lighten the mood.

After the vigils there was just another hour left to go off using the hunting equipment again and then it was home at 4am where I had the best nights sleep of my life (no bumps in the night followed me home obviously!)

I would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone. I had previously thought I might be paralysed with fear and unable to even get in the building. But actually it was just really interesting and exciting and only a tiny bit good-scary. The staff make you feel so comfortable that you just relax and throw yourself into it Ghostbuster style! Running around an empty museum at 3am is going to be a novel experience to anyone anyway, and the added creaks and knocks and eerie goings on just added to it. I wouldn’t say it has made me come away more of a believer or more of a sceptic… just feeling a little bit smug with my own bravery and desperate to go on another one.

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I’ve escaped London for the rest of the week to hide at home in Yorkshire. Being a ratrace-face is starting to give me burn out so there was only one option, hit the woods and walk and walk until I was hopelessly lost.

 

 

 

As well as a good fish & chips and a good cup o’ tea, I really miss WOODS. Where are the woods in London? I don’t understand. There are plenty of good parks, yes I can vouch for that. Granted; there’s lovely heaths, there’s a pretty awesome river and riverbank. There’s boating lakes, there’s urban farms and there’s some super hills (Primrose Hill is the place I run to the second the sun puts its hat on). All these things are fine and dandy but I want treeeeees. I want dense fairy tale forest with moss and gnarled roots reaching for your feet as you wander through. I googled London Woods and it produced quite a lowely list of 15, most of which on further inspection contain the words small, former or previous and so I guess don’t actually really exist anymore. I think the best option looks to be Queens Wood particularly appreciating this line in the review …the wood has no park or playing fields but does sport a children’s adventure playground built on top of the plague pit. (!) so I might venture out there when I’m back in the smokey city.

 

 

To satisfy my lack of woodland woe I ventured out to Hardcastle Craggs near Hebden Bridge. I arrived at about 11am and it had been raining all morning, that constant drizzle that makes your face and hair all dewy. Luckily I was really protected by the canopy of new leaves for most of my walk so could just enjoy the beautiful freshgreen rainy smell and use it as an excuse to don my wellies and jump around in the river. It also meant I could take some photos without the sky giving my camera a shower. The walk was about two miles and I only bumped into two other people and a giddy spaniel! I saw lots of unseasonal robins, a tree-creeper, a dipper, a beautiful yellow wagtail and a bunch of ants eating bilberries. My favourite spot of all was this little chap. He looked extremely happy mooching along the damp bark.

I love the eerie mist that hangs around deep inside woods and the mysterious way that everywhere you look can shift and sway and look the same as the place you’ve just come from. I think everything can be put in perspective by getting deep down into nature and listening to the peace and quiet

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The city I grew up in is the furthest possible point away from any coastline  in the UK. When I was 10 they shipped in huge bags of sand and created a fake beach in the city centre, because they had done a survey and 72% of children had never been to the seaside.  For this reason the seaside has a totally enchanting, magical, amazing quality to it and I still get a swarm of butterflies the second I spot the ocean on the horizon as I travel towards it.

My friends Ali & Craig (aka 3 is the magic number) and I made a decision that we would go to one coastal resort per month this summer; to get out of grizzly London and explore and get sand in our sandwiches and salty air in our lungs. The first location we selected was …….. Eastbourne! 1. Because it was only £13 a ticket and 2. Because my dad was born/bred there and I was eager to explore his hometown. The train from London goes from Charing Cross and takes about 2 hours, with one change in a little resort called St Leonards Warrior Square which didn’t make the best impression since in the 20 minutes we spent on the tiny platform we witnessed a taped off police-crime-scene being guarded by armed officers, a scowling pregnant child and a man with a raging pitbull shouting at another man across the train tracks. The journey goes quickly enough though it you have a nice array of train snacks, good conversation and hang-man to fall back on.

As a result of a complete fluke, instead of the April showers and grey drizzle we’d expected when we booked in February, it was the hottest day of the year so far. Cardigans and coats were shed, sunglasses were out and we all came home with noticabley pink faces (oh so British!) I’ve bolded the other seaside cliches in the following post just to show how we ticked just about every box! Upon arrival we walked through Eastbourne town centre and picked up some rock at the Truley Scrumptious Olde Fashioned Sweet Shop and then jumped aboard an open top bus up to Beachy Head. It is a place of such breath-taking beauty but obviously there is the more sinister side which is unavoidable to ignore when you see the beautiful cliffs scattered with wooden crosses and fresh flowers. There is such a bittersweetness to how incredible the chalk cliffs and views are against the heart breaking sadness of the lives lost there. Luckily we saw no lone walkers or potential jumpers (just one crazy dad tourist getting a bit of a fright when he stepped out a bit too far) and I would recommend anyone to go here if they haven’t. It must be one of the most perfect areas of the UK. It was peaceful and serene and unusual and the haunting noise of the lighthouse carries through the air giving it a really dramatic ambiance. Photographs do not do it justice!

 

 

 

 

 

Back in Eastbourne we picked up Fish and Chips from Qualisea. You might know know how very seriously I take the business of f&c munching and these did not let me down! Fresh flakey haddock, crispy batter and the fact we could eat them on the pebbles, in tee shirts, with circling mutant seagulls (rather than huddling inside somewhere for warmth) made them all the more tasty. Then we played on the (rather sad old) pier, took touristy photographs in deck chairs wandered along the beach, got sand (and chalk) in our shoes, explored the band stand, then went for high tea in The Grand Hotel and slightly napped in the big comfy chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We came home happy and burnt and full of sea air and happy thoughts.

Any recommendations for our next seaside jaunt are very welcome, as we are stuck and need to get booking…

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