I began 2019 with a greater sense of optimism than I’ve felt for a long time. The start of a brand new year always seems to carry with it a feeling of hope and possibility, and I was so glad to put 2018 behind me that I threw myself straight into making plans to ensure 2019 is a much better year. I’ve already booked a couple of trips, and I’m going to be making sure both my passport and pilot’s licences get plenty of use!
Amidst a hectic month with work I had the most delightful few days in Prague with my lovely sister Helen. You can read about our adventures here, and I’ve still got to get round to writing up all the amazing things we ate on our food tour! I loved this photo that Helen took of me overlooking the city.
A couple of days after we got back I took Helen flying in the PA28, which was great fun. It was my first time flying a Piper Archer, a slightly more powerful version of the PA28 family than the Warrior I usually fly, but luckily it was much the same (just slightly faster!). Helen took this photo of me at the controls, which I love!
I also took my mum flying this month!
In helicopter news, I’ve been flying a brand new type of R44 this month. This shiny new Cadet is the latest addition at Heli Air and I’ve written more about it here.
I also went back to Buckland Manor with my old instructor Matt for some more off-airfield practice, in the Cadet rather than the R22 this time. There was a dusting of snow on the ground when we arrived for breakfast.
It was all melted by the time we left though! There really is nothing cooler than turning up somewhere in a helicopter.
I popped down to London for half a day earlier this month to go on a wonderful architecture-themed walk around Hampstead with the Idler Academy. It started and ended at this Insta-famous pub…
…and took us past lots of Hampstead’s most beautiful buildings. It was led by the writer Harry Mount, who was excellent.
I’ve also spent a few days down in Minehead in Somerset, in the thatched cottage my parents often go on holiday to, where this was the view from my bathroom and bedroom windows.
I spent most of the time working by the log burner and I hardly left the house, but did stretch my legs a couple of times with some brief strolls around the local area.
Being indoors was not only warmer, but gave me the advantage of this darling dog’s company. Isn’t she so sweet?
Back home, I’ve managed the odd walk amidst mountains of work.
Charlbury is now awash with beautiful crocuses and snowdrops, suggesting that spring can’t be too far around the corner.
That said, there’s meant to be a load of snow falling overnight, so I think we’ve not seen the worst of winter yet! I have stocked up on crumpets and tins of soup just in case.
I’ve recently returned from the most delightful few days in Prague with my sister Helen, and I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. (I know – I STILL have Hong Kong to write about, and a good few other trips as well!). It was our first time visiting the Czech Republic, and I can safely say that it won’t be our last. As I always do with every trip I go on, I spent ages researching it before we went, and what follows is a summary of what we did – I’d recommend all of it!
1. Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock
This is the heart of the oldest part of Prague. It has a nice atmosphere, with lots of beautifully painted buildings to admire and, of course, the celebrated Astronomical Clock. The side streets off the square are worth exploring, too.
Mulled wine in the snow. It cost £1.35!
On the hour, the two blue windows open and there’s a little procession of figures inside. Then the golden cockerel crows.
2. Charles Bridge
Walking across this famous bridge was a bracing experience in freezing temperatures, but nonetheless an enjoyable one. There are various stalls selling paintings and photographs of Prague, and sculptures to admire at regular intervals. We paid 100CZK to go up the tower and the view was well worth it.
3. Letna Park
On the other side of the river, you’ll find a load of steps leading up the hillside to this park, the main part of which is dominated by a Metronome sculpture that replaces a gargantuan statue of Stalin, which was destroyed in 1962 when the personality cult surrounding Stalin was condemned by the Soviets. The main reason for making the ascent up all those steps, though, is to admire the incredible views.
4. Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral
These two buildings dominate the skyline as seen from the Old Town side of the river.
The cathedral is within the Castle complex, so you can visit them at the same time. We didn’t pay to get into any of the Castle, and the cathedral is free to visit. There are some great views, as well as some nice gift shops for souvenirs.
5. Kampa Island and John Lennon wall
Kampa Island is accessed from Charles Bridge and it’s barely an island, but it’s got some quaint cobbled streets and good views of the Prague skyline looking towards the Old Town.
It’s noted for this wall, the graffiti-ing of which began in the 1980s as a celebration of John Lennon. Over the years people used it to express grievances about the Communist regime. Which, as you can imagine, caused some tension.
There are other kinds of interesting surprises on Kampa Island too…
6. Mucha exhibition
Alfons Mucha continues to be one of the most popular Czech artists, and we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to see some of his work. This exhibition is right on the Old Town Square and well worth a look.
7. Museum of Communism
This museum is a must for learning about the country’s 20th century history. I still find it astonishing to think how recently a brutal regime could have been in power, and so geographically close to home.
8. Mozart trail
As a lifelong devotee of Mozart, I was keen to explore his links with Prague – a city whose people Mozart felt deeply appreciated his music. Unfortunately most of the buildings with Mozart connections aren’t accessible (his primary residence is now the British Embassy, for example), though the theatre where he conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni continues in use.
Continuing on the Mozart theme, a lovely thing to do when you’re in Prague is go to the National Marionette Theatre to watch a marionette performance. We saw Don Giovanni, and it was very entertaining!
9. U Fleku
Our Grandad visited this historic tavern when he used to travel to Prague on business, so we couldn’t leave Prague without following in his footsteps. It claims to have been founded in 1499.
10. Taste of Prague food tour
You know I’m a big fan of food tours – they’re such a great way to get to know a place – so of course we booked one for this trip too, with a company called Taste of Prague. We had such a wonderful time eating our way around Prague with a lovely guide and two delightful fellow travellers.
It was so wonderful that I’ll have to write about it in a post of its own! In the meantime, here’s Helen and me with our beers during the first stop on the tour, at a popular local place called Lokal. They’re meant to be that foamy!
We flew with British Airways from London Heathrow, and it’s about an hour and a half’s flight.
We rented an apartment through Airbnb (get £25 off your first booking here).
Currency is the Czech koruna, though some places also accept Euros. I used Apple Pay in most places without a problem. 1CZK = about 35p.
Alcohol really is cheaper than soft drinks. Beer costs about £1 and you can get a large glass of wine for about £1.80.
January is a verrrry cheap time to go! It was about 2 degrees but the flurries of snow added to the magic of the place.
My first helicopter flight of 2019 was an exciting one because I had a familiarisation flight in Heli Air’s newest machine, the brand new R44 Cadet. After going back to flying the R22 for a while, it was great to be able to exercise my R44 type rating again, and as it’s been a while since I’ve written a flying post, I thought you might like to see some photos and learn a bit more about this fantastic new machine.
The Cadet is described by Robinson Helicopters as being for people who “want the economy of a small helicopter without sacrificing the power and performance of a large helicopter”, and it sits between the R22 and the R44 Raven II. It’s basically a two-seat R44, with the rear seats replaced with lidded storage space.
With just nine hours on the clock, this is by far the newest aircraft of any kind that I’ve ever flown. You know that nice ‘new car’ smell? Well you get that with helicopters too! Heli Air’s fleet is always immaculate, but being brand new, this one is even more gleaming than normal.
It’s equipped with Bose A20s, noise-cancelling headsets that make the whole experience of flying so much nicer.
With the Aspen PFD (the electronic display, for non-pilots), and of course the trusty iPad for GPS, this one is also equipped with nicer avionics than the helicopters I’ve flown before. It’s handy having the limit MAP chart on the cyclic instead of the ceiling, too.
For those of you familiar with the R44, the Cadet is closer in spec to the Raven I than the Raven II, with the same engine (slightly derated), airframe and rotor system as the Raven I but with these differences:
No seats in the back – luggage bays instead
Lower max all-up weight of 2,200lb (Raven I: 2,400lb; Raven II: 2,500lb)
VNE (max speed, for non-pilot readers) of 120kts (Raven I & II: 130kts)
For prospective owners (sadly not me!), time between overhaul is extended to 2,400 hours
As you can see in this pic, we comfortably got 110 kts pulling 22 inches. The rate of climb was fantastic too, at well over 1,000ft per minute. I had the collective almost fully lowered to get it back down to the airfield – it just loves flying!
It’s perfect for people like me, because I’m rarely (if ever) going to go flying with four people, so I only need two seats, and the self-fly hire rate is cheaper than the Raven II, so I can save a bit of money. I don’t weigh very much, so the lower max all-up weight isn’t an issue for me, and there’s loads of luggage space for if I wanted to take it on a hotel trip or something. From an aesthetic point of view, it’s also much easier on the eye than the R22.
If you’re interested in flying the R44 Cadet (or indeed any of the other helicopters in this picture!), it’s at Heli Air’s Wellesbourne base and you can email Matthew Browne or call 01789 470476 for more information.
On 1 November 1943, the residents of Imber on Salisbury Plain were given just 47 days to leave their homes. They didn’t know it at the time, but they would never return. Today, the village continues to serve the same purpose for which it was requisitioned: it’s used by the Army as an urban warfare training ground. The Army only opens the roads to Imber on a handful of days each year, and visiting is a surreal experience.
Salisbury Plain is the largest military training area in the UK, and has been for a long time. Before the war had even begun, the Army had bought the majority of the buildings in Imber and made their residents tenants to facilitate their easy removal should the time come. And the time did come: in 1943, the villagers were turfed out to make way for American soldiers preparing for the liberation of Europe.
The only building still in a usable condition is the church, which obviously only opens when the village does. The church bells that were sounding when I was there are so eerily incongruous in a village full of the empty shells of buildings.
Imber Village - YouTube
Miles from any other settlement, Imber is an isolated village that had only 150 residents at the time of its forced abandonment. The Army has subsequently demolished most of the original buildings, leaving a tantalising few to hint at what the village was once like. This pair of cottages is among them.
Known as the Nagshead Cottages, a sign tells the visitor that they were once a pub.
There are lots of signs everywhere warning of the dangers of leaving the road due to unexploded munitions.
The structures you can see in the next few photos do not form part of the original village; they were constructed in the 1970s to train soldiers for Northern Ireland.
This is – or was – Imber Court, the original manor house. How I should have liked to explore that!
This was the Bell Inn from 1840 to 1943, but, dating to 1769, it had previously been a house belonging to a Philip Flower – “overseer of the poor”.
Originally the plan had been for the villagers to move back after the war, and the buildings you can see in the background here are council houses built for that purpose. However, the village was deemed too useful and the villagers were never allowed back.
Which just leaves the church, marooned in barbed wire, the only element of continuity in this strange, cut-off place. In fact, the only villagers allowed back were dead: burials in the church yard were permitted.
Clues as to the village’s long history are to be found in the porch, where centuries-old graffiti is carved deep into the stone. Inside, traces of medieval wall paintings can still be seen on the walls.
The porch now looks out over the training ground, a slightly depressing view made better by this handsome Labrador.
On the way out of the village is another survivor, Seagram’s Farm, the plaque on the side of which reads 1880. There are some interesting old photographs of it here.
Finding the village was a bit of a mission because the roads to it aren’t marked on Google Maps. My sat nav took me on a (scenic) wild goose chase across Salisbury Plain trying to take me to the point closest to the village. I should have followed the directions here.
If you want to visit Imber, keep an eye on the Imber Church website for details of when the Army opens the roads to the village (this can change at short notice). There are lots of interesting old photographs here should you wish to find out more about this fascinating place.
As 2018 draws to a close, I’d normally be writing a post of all the highlights of the year. But to be honest, I’m very glad to be seeing the back of what’s been, on the whole, a pretty awful year, and I think my time is better spent trying to get through my huge backlog of blog posts rather than trawling up memories I’d rather forget! With that said, December has been an unbelievably busy month, so here’s a look back at what I’ve been up to.
As always, I’ve been doing a fair bit of flying, mostly in the helicopter, taking advantage of some beautiful crisp winter days to do some more challenging flights into various different hotels with my old instructor Matt. This was the view when I arrived at the airfield on one such day (sadly the Twin Squirrel was not my ride for the day!).
This was taken at the Fish Hotel, near Broadway.
And this one at the gorgeous Buckland Manor, also near Broadway. This was an instant hit due to the beauty of the hotel and the friendliness of its staff. I’m already planning a return visit!
Just before Christmas I went on an exciting flyout with the Heli Air gang in five helicopters. We landed first at Birmingham Airport and I was flying at the front in the R22. This excellent photo was taken by Matt while I was flying. It’s not often you get to fly into a major international airport, so it was quite an experience (I was very glad Matt was doing the radio!).
This was the view from our parking spot.
We were there for a tour of the air traffic control tower (the new one, not the old one that you can see in the photo above), which was most interesting. Even better, it coincided with the arrival of an Emirates A380 – always an astonishing sight on account of its immense size relative to other airliners.
From Birmingham we flew on to lunch at Barnsdale Lodge in Rutland. You can just about see all five helicopters landed side-by-side in this photo.
The landing was a slightly tricky one as it meant dropping into a small fenced area, right alongside another helicopter. Much precision needed!
Earlier in the month I went down to Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey and added a new type to my log book with a flight in this nifty little helicopter, a Cabri G2, with my friend Dave.
The reason for the trip was to fly down the London heli routes, which is an incredibly exciting experience for a helicopter pilot. You’re not allowed over central London in a single-engine fixed wing aircraft, but you can in a helicopter providing you stick to clearly designated routes and follow the correct procedures talking to Heathrow on the radio (which luckily Dave took care of!!). The views are absolutely spectacular flying along the Thames (H4 as this stretch is known in heli speak!).
I’ve done a couple of ground-based trips this month, too. The first was up to Newcastle to visit my grandparents.
I had a nice little wander around first thing in the morning, when there were few people around.
I had breakfast at the Sage, a concert hall on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.
I then took a train up the beautiful coastal route to Edinburgh, where a friend of mine was conducting the ballet ‘Cinderella’, and we had an excellent afternoon exploring the city before the show. I couldn’t believe it had been more than twenty years since I was last in Scotland! This was the view from the wonderful restaurant where we had a nice long, boozy lunch (it’s called The Outsider and I highly recommend it).
Despite the perishing cold, Edinburgh proved to be the most magical place, particularly in all its festive glory.
I just adored this incredible Christmas tree hidden away down a little alleyway.
The Christmas market was wonderful, too, and I even managed to find a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a helicopter!
Next morning I just had time to head over to Victoria Street to capture this photo before my train back to Newcastle. Unfortunately it was shop delivery time, and this was as lorry-free as I could manage!
At more or less the opposite end of the country I enjoyed a weekend in London with some pals from the Italy retreat I went on in October. One of our number is an actress and she’s in Dr Faustus at the Globe, so we had a delightful lunch at the Swan before watching her in the play.
These gorgeous townhouses are right alongside the Globe and looked inviting with their Christmas decorations.
London can be quite magical too – especially that skyline.
It looks lovely during the day too…
From London I went straight to Heathrow and flew out to Italy/Switzerland for my final work trip of the year (my flight home was my 28th international flight of the year!). It was another long day of meetings, but I managed to get out for some fresh air at lunchtime.
I couldn’t resist this shot!!
I only had a couple of days at home before heading down to my parents’ for Christmas, but I took the opportunity to stroll around the village admiring the Christmas decorations and general wintryness of everything.
Including, of course, my favourite spot by the fire at my local pub.
This was Stratford-upon-Avon on a rainy day when I should’ve been flying.
Down in Wiltshire with my family for Christmas, I enjoyed the company of this absolute little sweetheart.
We went for some nice walks.
Found another dream house!
I explored the lost village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, which I’m in the middle of writing a detailed post about.
And I went down to visit my brother and his girlfriend in Hampshire. We had a nice walk in the New Forest and saw some horses (not pictured).
One way or another, I’ve barely had time to breathe this month (which is why I still haven’t got round to blogging about Hong Kong!)! I’m now busily making plans for..
November got underway with an outing to the firework display in Oxford’s South Park with some friends, at which I singularly failed to produce any good photos. My friend got given VIP tickets, so we enjoyed chilli con carne and wine in the VIP tent before the display, which was great fun! Also in seasonal activities, some other friends and I gathered for our annual pumpkin carving, which was delayed into early November due to our busy schedules. Not my best effort this year, I fear!
My friend Lucy and I went to the Christmas Lights Festival in Oxford, enjoying the first mulled wine of the year…
…along with this ‘heliosphere’ display in Broad Street.
I enjoyed a solo trip to Rome, which I’ve written about here.
Another friend and I had a lovely day out in the Cotswolds, with lunch at Huffkin’s in Burford…
…followed by an unexpectedly delightful visit to a local zoo called ‘Crocodiles of the World’, where we got to hold a baby alligator. Steve Irwin eat your heart out!
I’ve been doing a fair bit of flying, when I get the time. I’ve completed my club check and am now officially signed off to fly PA28s at Take Flight, though I’ve not had decent enough weather to go solo again yet.
In helicopter news, I’ve been flying the R22 with my old instructor Matt to try to build up my confidence a bit with going into off-airfield sites, as well as building on my general handling skills with some fun flying around the airfield. The trickiest off-airfield landing I’ve done so far was to the Arrow Mill, a pub near Alcester.
Back on the ground, Charlbury was a blaze of autumn colour on my walks this month.
The village was also beautifully decorated for Remembrance Sunday.
I spent the last week of November on an exciting solo trip to Hong Kong, during which I ate lots of incredible food, visited as many places as possible and walked about 20,000 steps a day. I must have taken at least a thousand photos, which I now need to sort through and select some of the best ones to go into a blog post or three. For the time being, I’ll end this post with a pic of me in what became my favourite place in Hong Kong: Victoria Peak.
Long-term readers of this blog may remember that Rome is a place dear to my heart, and with a healthy number of air miles to use up, I enjoyed a solo trip to the Eternal City this month. Rome is great for me because I know it so well that it’s no stress at all to go. I know exactly what to do and where to go when I’m there, and I can get to most places without a map. Here are some of the things I did on my Rome mini-break.
I walked a total of 35.5km while I was in Rome, which I thought was pretty good going. Simply walking around the city is the best way to pass the time of day in Rome, and you don’t need to pay a penny for the privilege. Even at night, I felt perfectly safe walking around by myself, and the first thing I did after checking in at my hotel around 9.30pm was to go for a long walk taking in some of the highlights, including my favourite Roman building, the Pantheon.
Rome is at its most magical at night. I had the Capitoline Hill all to myself!
Well, apart from Marcus Aurelius.
This one didn’t come out too well, but it’s always worth seeing this view over the Roman forum at night, when various landmarks are floodlit. Although strangely, not the one in the foreground.
The Trevi Fountain is ALWAYS busy, though some clever cropping here makes it look as though it’s empty. It wasn’t! As is customary, I threw my coin in to ensure my return to Rome (it’s worked approximately 14 times so far!!) and made a wish.
Here are the Spanish Steps the following morning. The house on the right is where poor old Keats met his maker.
Luckily the weather cleared into a beautiful blue sky day, and though it was November, I could walk around in a summer dress (looking every inch the true Brit amongst the Italians all wearing their coats and scarves). Here’s Piazza Navona.
That classic view over the Roman forum, as seen during the day.
I felt I ought to go up to the Colosseum, though the area around it isn’t looking at its best at the moment owing to all the works associated with the third Metro line, which is STILL in progress, as it has been for the decade or so I’ve been visiting Rome.
One good thing about the Metro line works is that they’re uncovering new archaeology. This lot was on display since the last time I visited; it’s thought to be the remains of Hadrian’s Athenaeum. I’m really pleased with this photo – the juxtaposition between the gleaming white Vittorio Emanuele monument and the Roman archaeology, the layers of history that make Rome so fascinating.
On the subject of which, where else can you see a stock exchange built into a Roman temple? This is the Temple of Hadrian, always an impressive sight to stumble upon on your wanderings around the Campus Martius area.
Antico Caffè Greco
I was staying just around the corner from one of Rome’s most historic and famous cafes, Antico Caffè Greco, so I had breakfast there both days. Established in 1760, it’s a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, in the heart of what was once known as ‘the English ghetto’ because it’s where many of the 18th century Grand Tourists had their quarters. Keats, Byron, Mendelssohn, Liszt and many other notable figures have all sipped their coffees here, and I was excited to be able to follow in their footsteps. A cup of coffee in these illustrious surroundings will set you back €9 if you choose to sit down, or you can do what I did and stand at the bar, paying the princely sum of €3.50 for a cappuccino and small croissant.
Pizza al taglio
Pizza al taglio means ‘pizza by the slice’. I pretty much lived on this stuff for two days, and very cheap and easy it is too. This one was a place called Roscioli, where I met up with my Twitter/Instagram pal Agnes of Understanding Rome.
On my last day I had a nice snack and glass of wine at Obica, a mozzarella bar.
No trip to Rome is complete without copious amounts of gelato, which is so much better than any ice cream you can get in the UK. I revisited a couple of my favourite gelaterias – Giolitti’s and, pictured here, San Crispino. At this one, the ice cream is all stored in silver vats with lids, so it’s a bit different from most places. I was pleased to find they still had my favourite flavour – caramel with meringue.
I have got into the habit of booking spa treatments for when I’m on holiday, as holidays are obviously all about self-indulgence and I love a good spa. Having done a bit of research I settled on Acqua Madre, which is a Turkish-style hammam that also does lovely relaxing massages. It’s not the easiest place to find, hidden away just around the corner from Piazza Mattei, where there’s the famous fountain featuring little turtles. Inside, it’s a wonderfully calming space and I was brought some soothing peppermint tea while I sat in the relaxation room after a fantastic massage. I will definitely be going back next time I’m in Rome!
Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica
No trip to Rome would be complete without a bit of time spent mooching around a museum, and Museo Barracco di Scultura Antica was the one I chose this time. I’d not been before – it was an excellent recommendation from Agnes – and it proved to be well worth a visit (and free!). It’s the private collection of a chap called Giovanni Barracco, who generously gave his superb collection of antiquities to the city of Rome in 1902. Throughout the museum – housed in an interesting building, as you can see in the picture – there are pictures of the objects in situ in his apartment. I particularly liked this statue because of the traces of paint on the eyes. I’m not sure whether it’s the original paint, but it gives you a good impression of what ancient statues would have been like.
I must say I rather enjoyed pottering around Rome by myself for a couple of days! As well as Agnes, I also got to meet up with an old colleague who I’d not seen for years, and I got a good amount of shopping for autumn clothes done without a travel companion to inconvenience. My next solo travel adventure is on a rather bigger scale: I’m off to Hong Kong for a week on my own, leaving within the hour. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them, and watch this space for some more exotic travel photos coming soon…
Autumn always seems such a fleeting season; all it takes is one storm to blow the rest of the leaves off the trees and all of a sudden it’s winter. Of course, it doesn’t help that the clocks have changed and it’s getting dark at 4.30pm. This time of year is all about making indoors as cosy as possible, and given the name of the blog it seems remiss of me not to have written a post on this topic thus far. There are some good Christmas wish list ideas on this list, too!
1. Fairy lights
Fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas! I reserve the colourful ones for Christmas and the rest of the year have clear ones to bring some sparkle to any dull day. These ones are tiny little lights on a copper wire that can be shaped around objects on your mantelpiece or wherever you choose to put them.
What is a dark winter’s night without a candle or six? In fact, I burn one at my desk even during the day during the winter months and they’re great if, like me, you are missing the log burner you once had. At the moment I’m really into a candle company my mum discovered called True Grace, as the scents are so vivid. Little tealight holders are also lovely for casting nice patterns across the room and creating a warm glow (the White Company are good for these). For extra flickering reflections, do what I’ve done on my coffee table and put some candles on a mirrored tray.
3. Throws and rugs
Throws add some cosy textures to a room, as well as being nice to retreat beneath when you’re watching TV. I also have a couple of different ones on the bed for warmth as well as a nice decorative touch. For added cosiness, sheepskin rugs are a must. My bedroom is full of them and they’re so nice to sink your toes into. I even have one under my desk for when I’m working.
A snug pair of pyjamas is an absolute must and it is perfectly acceptable to wear them during the day if you’re spending the day indoors. My gorgeous pheasant/pink checkered ones were kindly sent as a gift from the lovely folks at Rydale and I absolutely love them (they’re called the Peggy Pyjama Set – coincidentally, also the name of the Mad Men character people identify with me because I’m a copywriter! – and you can find them here).
5. Hot water bottle
Every night, without fail, my going to bed routine begins with boiling the kettle (a whistling one, of course) to fill a hot water bottle. This then goes into the bed to warm it up while I’m brushing my teeth, so the bed is nice and toasty when I get into it.
6. A stack of books and journals
Obviously an essential at any time of year, but a must for those long winter evenings. This is my current stack: a line a day five-year journal; a novel; a non-fiction book; my main journal.
7. Hot drinks
My tea/hot chocolate/Ovaltine consumption definitely goes up in the winter, and so I have to have nice mugs to drink it from. I’m a fan of Emma Bridgewater and my winter mug of choice is this adorable one from a couple of years ago, which depicts various wild animals going carol-singing. It really conjures up the magic of Christmas without being overtly Christmassy, so I can get away with using it all winter and not just December! The little mice on the inside are my favourite bit.
8. Slow cooker
Winter is the season when the slow cooker really comes into its own. For minimal effort, you can have all sorts of delicious cooking smells gradually filling your home and a hearty dish to enjoy in the evening. My favourites are pulled pork and rice pudding.
Now all we need is some snow and the winter cosiness will be complete. :)
Wow, November already! Where did the year go? By way of dealing with my huge backlog of posts to write, I’m going to intersperse some write-ups of trips from earlier in the year with newer stuff; I hope you don’t mind. Today’s post is from a day back in February (!). It is impossible to go to Bath without taking a million photos, and although I’ve shared plenty of photos of it on here before, I felt some more of my wanderings wouldn’t really go amiss. Starting with the perfect flat white at the Society Cafe.
This is, of course, the classic shot of Pulteney Bridge and the weir – 0/10 for originality, I know, but when the subject matter is so elegant, it’s difficult to resist getting the camera out.
This is what the bridge looks like when you’re actually on it. I can’t tell you how long I lingered opposite this florist trying to get a photo with no people!
Another view of Pulteney Bridge looking towards Laura Place.
This is the little alleyway that connects Abbey Green with a beautiful little hidden away street. This is the view looking towards Abbey Green…
…and this is the view when you emerge. This can’t have changed at all since Jane Austen’s day, and you can imagine settling yourself into one of these gorgeous townhouses and waiting for callers! At the end of the street is Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House, said to be the oldest house in Bath (dating to around 1482, would you believe) and home to the Sally Lunn bun, which is a bit like brioche and worth queuing up with the tourists to try at least once (take a look at this post for more).
So far, so touristy, but my last few photos for today are of a side to Bath that I don’t think many visitors ever explore. Cross the river by the station – the point at which the Kennett and Avon canal joins the River Avon – and you’ll reach Widcombe, a quieter part of town still full of desirable Georgian terraces like this one, which still has its original lantern.
There’s also a cracking view over the rooftops from some of the little lanes off the main road leading up the hill. I liked the mangled bit of fencing in the foreground there; it felt as though it would have a few stories to tell.
I love a good roofscape; there’s something about them that captures the imagination. I think about each of the chimney pots having a cosy fire crackling companionably at the other end, with people gathering around it. Also, they always remind me of that bit in Mary Poppins when all the chimney-sweeps dance on the rooftops.
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve taken a little break from blogging for the last couple of months. That’s mainly because life has got in the way, and I basically ran out of time, energy and inspiration. This isn’t going to be a normal full post, but I just thought I’d check in and let you know I’ll be back soon, and share a few photos from the last couple of months so you know I’m still here! (You can also follow me on Instagram for more regular updates and photos.)
The biggest thing I’ve done since my last update is spend a week on the most wonderful retreat in Umbria. It did me the world of good, and I’ll try to write more about it at some point.
I’ve been to visit a client in Italy/Switzerland, for the third time this year.
I spent a weekend in the Netherlands, with one day in Dordrecht for the wedding of some dear friends, and another day wandering around the canals of Amsterdam consuming stroopwafels and cheese (not at the same time).
I’ve been doing quite a bit of flying, as ever. The R44 highlight was flying to Billesley Manor Hotel.
I’ve also been busy learning the ropes on the PA28.
When I was up north visiting my grandparents I discovered a wonderful bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland called Barter Books. Bibliophile heaven.
I spent a few days in Minehead staying in the most gorgeous thatched cottage with my parents and our lovely dalmatian Sally. (I worked the whole time, mind you)
And back home, I’ve been enjoying plenty of walks in the autumn sunshine, evenings in the local pub and various gatherings with friends.
My list of draft posts has spiralled out of control, but I’ll slowly start working my way through writing them up as and when I’m able to!