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Nifty November

It is the last day of November and I’m actually blogging promptly. I hope the shock does not make anyone faint. I’m determined to improve my time management. It has been a very busy month. At times I thought I might not get to the end of the month but I have and there were plenty of nice diversions along the way.

Jo March said November was the most disagreeable month in the whole year and there’s a big part of me that is inclined to agree with her. There’s no denying that it tends to be both dark and cold and after Guy Fawkes Night there’s not much to look forward to. I’ve tried hard to find things to enjoy this month and also to practice plenty of self care.

So without further ado what did I do!

I finally watched the end of GBBO with a yummy picky supper and I was pleased by the eventual winner. 

I met R for dinner. I’ve not seen her since I had my surgery so there was so much to catch up on. 

I went to K’s to watch the Fireworks at Crystal Palace. I had a delicious dinner and cuddled Millie cat. We will draw a discreet veil over my extreme lateness because I got totally lost in a diversion. 

My cosy crochet rainbow blanket it’s been coming into its own since the chill set in. Either draped across my bed or wrapped round my on the sofa it’s been keeping me cosy.

L came to stay for a few days. We gossiped and tried to put the world to rights.

I had to go to Newcastle and back in a day for work. Catching the first train at 05:39 was deeply unpleasant but I saw snow from the train – somewhere between Doncaster and Darlington.

There was also a Rocket Snow Dog on Newcastle station

I had a delicious dinner with the girls at the Diner with a simply marvellous stress relieving alcoholic chocolate milkshake.

Day out with H including super cocktails

Tea at Pattiserie Valerie

Hugs from my lovely nieces

Family adults only Dinner at the Star of India.

I finished my epic Chalet School reread.

And I began rereading another series – the familiar and comforting Miss Read books and I am now immersed in Fairacre.

I met B for a post work chat and wander in the Christmas market on the Southbank.

The delicious German Cake B bought me.

I had a big asthma attack which obviously was not nice but they were very kind and efficient in the Urgent Care Centre.

A pink sunrise on a winter morning.

I met K and L for dinner.

Then K and I went to see the long awaited Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them. I happily escaped into Potterverse.

A morning spent pampering me. I woke one Sunday morning looked in the mirror and realised I needed an MOT. I looked and felt so much better after a long hot soak, a hairwash, manicure, pedicure, home facial and actually applying all my emollients.

There was a joyous lunchtime walk in the park. My new Directorate has weekly mental health walks and I always feel better for them. 

I cooked myself Bubble and squeak one freezing evening. It’s too good to only eat on Boxing Day.

A lovely lunch with former colleagues – good food and gossip what more could I ask?

Our Director bought doughnuts in because it was Friday. Morale soared.

I was lucky enough to see Cursed Child for the second time. It improves with a second view. The first time I was caught up in the story and totally involved in Potterverse. This time I could appreciate the clever staging and highly visual nature of the play. It makes really clever use of lights and scenery.

I received a cheque with nice refund from E.on.

Finally managed to sort out my temperamental mobile with help from the O2 Guru

L came to visit and I now have Anna-Charlotte in my hot sticky hands.

I went to see Austentatious – a hilarious improvised show in the style of Austen.

Dinner with H

A quiet evening of pottering while listening to Miss Read

Finished my Goodreads challenge

Snailmail from L

October Optimism

I really should post about October before November ends. I think my new year’s resolution needs to be around time management.

On the first day of October we made a whistle stop trip to Calais. Five of us packed into the parental car to pick up Prosecco for the wedding of the year. As I am a skilled shopper I managed a rapid trip to Sephora and Maisons du Monde too.

The next day I spent some time snuggled on the sofa with both nieces reading together this made all three of us happy.

After some distressing false starts I found the perfect dress to wear to the wedding. With grateful thanks to my friend H for acting as personal shopper, stylist and cheerleader.

My six monthly check up at the Dentist did not involve anything unpleasant or expensive.

Dahlias from Mum’s garden

One of those lovely picky dinners with Mum which we ate while watching Bake Off.

I went to a talk given by the author of The Long Weekend at the Fashion and Textile Museum and then explored the Jazz age exhibition. L and I wondered if the gold wedding dress is similar to Harriet Vane’s cloth of gold wedding dress.

Afterwards L and I had a delicious dinner at Taz.
K’s belated birthday do at Barbur

Drinkies at H’s afterwards

Walk around the Pleasance

My sister’s wedding dress fitting

I went to New Covent Garden Flower Market with my Mum and sister very early one morning to choose the flowers for my sister’s wedding. I was stunned by the beauty and quality of the flowers and it was absolutely worth the early start. We were particularly taken by the beautiful flowers on the table of the greasy spoon type cafe.

I bought some beautiful Amaryllis at the flower market but for some reason I didn’t take a photo.

Lovely Dinner with K after work.

H’s Birthday Do at Pizza Union

Clearing out my wardrobe and finally gaining some space

I managed to wear my favourite boots for a short time

Pink wine and cheese fondue with friends on a Saturday night.

I made a superb dinner from leftovers

A splendid cut and colour which as always made me feel so much better.

Meeting the girls for a post work coffee and gossip.

I had my eyebrows threaded. It’s an instant ego boost for very little time, effort and money.

My book friend K got married

Dinner with K, L, H and H. H made an amazing healthy cheesecake.

Managing to wear heels for a whole evening for the first time in more than 2 years.

The Victorian skittle alley at the Naval College

I bought a lovely black velvet jacket to wear at the wedding.

Cracked a difficult work thing

Dinner with L at The Diner

My sparkly manicure for the wedding.

The night before the wedding we all went to the Old Post Office for dinner and drinks.

My Sister’s wedding – it went very well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. They were too polite to say if they didn’t.  I’m not putting any photos of the event online but these are the lovely flowers I brought home.

K came to stay.

Prestat champagne truffles from Liberty – Thanks K

Autumn colours

It took my mother and I two days to clear up the wedding debris but by way of reward my Dad treated us to dinner at Ziyafet.

Super September

I’m awfully behind with this blog somehow real life has this way of inexorably taking over and if I’m honest I’ve never really got to grips with good time management. However September brought its own kind of joy this year.

There was better news on several fronts. My friend’s badly injured son continued to improve and another unwell friend made progress.

I went out for a delightful dinner with H

Playing in the garden with my nieces

K’s birthday party a simple but very enjoyable curry in good company.

Being organised before going away for once. I’m always very stressed before going away but this time everything fell easily into place and I was glad.

Dinner at Ziyafet trying out the new Kaspas in the high st. Ziyafet our local friendly Turkish  was as always lovely. If I’m honest I doubt we’ll bother with Kaspas again. It was an experience but there’s much better ice cream.

Lovely post from D

Lunch at Alberts in De Panne. This is becoming a family tradition and a good one in my opinion. Big niece is already asked not when can she go back.

Walking on the beach also in De Panne

Dinner at Le Detroit again it’s becoming a regular haunt but our meal is always delicious.

Joy of a calm, clean uncluttered hotel room

Shopping in France. I particularly like the beauties of Calais market. Those Dhalias fill me with joy.

A walk in Calais:

How can you beat a Dragon on a roundabout?

The Last night of the Proms
Seeing my fairy godmother and making a fuss of her dogs

Belated afternoon tea

A quiet half an hour reading in the park

Farewell dinner with K, L and S before K’s trip down under

The rain when it finally came


A huge email clearout at work – so very thereaupeutic.

Grown ups Sunday dinner

I managed to mend my much loved crochet cushion cover. It had stretched outrageously but it is now lined and filled with a huge French Pillow and in pride of place on the sofa.

Goodbye lunch at work 

Splendid goodbye gifts

Sister’s hen do

D the podiatrist sorted out my sore foot

A Cheese and wine party very retro with side order of excellent gossip

I have a shiny new job involving a promotion and a pay rise!

Cocktails with H & L

Dinner/ Cocktails with the girls

A peaceful work lunch in the park

Amazing August

If I am honest this month has reminded me of a Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times and the worst of times. August is often like that. It is the month I passed my driving test, one of my nieces was born in August, I received A level results which surpassed my wildest dreams in August. However it is also the month my beloved Grampy died, the month in which I realised that I would not after all be spending my life with the person I thought I would. It’s the month I collapsed with physical and nervous exhaustion but it is also a month where I picked myself up and put myself back together.

This month was no exception. The bad tales are not really mine to tell – the stories belong to others and they can tell them or not as they choose. I was saddened for them because they matter and did not deserve the things that have befallen them and upset because I could do nothing to help.

I can tell you that a former colleague died much too soon. I liked her, I respected her and she taught me so much about understanding the technical detail behind the legislation. I don’t think I ever said thank you properly. I thought so was indestructible if not immortal I was wrong. I am sure that somewhere up there J is busy telling the Angels how they could better organise their lives.

I can also tell you I managed to blow two job interviews one after the other…
But I have dwelt enough on the worst times. It’s time to move on to the best times:

Mum and I had a lovely picky dinner in front of the TV we rewatched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and it is still amusing.
I needed distraction so I went to the pub Quiz with K. We lost spectacularly.

My parents knew I needed distraction so they took me out for a Harvester Lunch on pensioners day. It helped.

For reasons I won’t go into I suddenly lost my nerve about driving. This lead to me being pressed to drive my mother to the coast on the grounds that the best thing to do if you’re scared about driving is to face it and drive. So we went for a delicious lunch at the Marine Hotel then wandered on the beach at Tankerton.

We spent the afternoon shopping in Canterbury, always a pleasant experience.

I found a tiny oasis of calm in the City. Actually found is the wrong word I’ve known Postman’s Park since I was a little girl. I’ve just not been there for years. The memorials for heroes are strangely poignant. I found the 2007 one especially moving because I remember the incident. It was the first new plaque for about 80 years too. I wonder why there was such a long gap.

I love this tranquil pond by the Guildhall too.

I found a BFG jar next to it.

Day out with H – ice cream at Caffe Concerto

After our ice cream we wandered  along the Southbank then had dinner at Gabriel’s Wharf with a wonderful view of the river.

The day was finished off with very Tipsy drinks at the Star.

I saw S for the first time in years. Possibly 5.

A friend’s surgery was successful.

I had an ego boosting cut and colour.

Then I braved having my eyebrows threaded. I always look better when I ge it down. Somehow I forget the transformative effect it has.

I spent a whole evening on the sofa devoted to reading

Waitrose make a knock off of my favourite Burts Bees bath stuff and it is around 80% cheaper. Little things you know.

L’s birthday dinner and cocktails. How’s this for a Gin and Tea?

Sunday roast dinner

Amazing parcel from L

They were doing some renovation work in my grandmother’s house and found scraps of the wallpaper I had in the little bedroom there as a toddler. I remember that clown wallpaper so clearly.

I had to go to Cardiff for work. It was hard work and I had lots of meetings but I managed my work life balance well so played hard too.

I was lucky and stayed in a fabby hotel. The Cardiff Hilton was splendid especially the pool and the bathroom was at least twice the size of my own at home. While swimming a small boy looked at the scarring on on my ankle and asked if I’d been bitten by a shark. He was clearly deeply disappointed when I told him it was just an operation.

I had dinner with M I’ve not seen her for years and it was so nice to catch up.

A colleague took me for  lunch in the Norweigan church on Cardiff Bay. There were guide dog puppies being puppy walked.

The second evening I met E for dinner and a gossip.

L’s birthday dinner at the ever delightful Annies

A 30th birthday party

A friend’s very poorly son is recovering 

Dinner at Ziyafet

Dinner at the Chinese Buffet

I’ve been promoted

Great British Bake Off is back. Watching with my big niece was a joy.

Meat market with the girls a tasty and economical dinner. The Halloumi and Mushroom burger was sublime.

Another super Parcel from L

Dinner at a new Italian to celebrate my new job

Finally booked a weekend away it was effortful at one point it seemed as if every hotel everywhere was fully booked but we got there

Playing with small niece

Making pizza with big niece

Big nieces sleepover

I have reimmersed my self in Elinor Brent Dyer’s Chalet School. They are an excellent antidote both to awful things I can’t change and the iniquities of SouthEastern trains. The Tyrol books really are superb.

Joy in July

July has been a lovely month

I went to the Christening of one of my oldest friend’s children and while there I caught up with an old friend and met her baby.

I went for Dinner at S’s to plan our adventure. She served the most amazing Cherry ice cream.

Mum and I had a TV Evening. We finished watching The Durrells and consumed a takeaway from Ziyafet.

There were homegrown Sweet Peas.

And Peonies this time from Waitrose.

My friend K held the first ‘Gather’ in years. I saw old friends and made some new ones.

I was invited to Dinner at FGT where we dined on L’s sublime homemade quiche.

I managed to swim 50 lengths of hydro pool

Wonderful fan girl moment. I do not intend to embarrass myself by elaborating but I was full of squee.

Lovely Snail mail from K.

Some delightful belated birthday gifts from D, from H and L and K.

I attended our annual conference Civil Service Live. There were some fantastic sessions and I remembered again why I do what I do and why it matters. Then there was the view from the conference centre. Admire this. Even in the rain it is stunning.

I wandered around St Katherine’s Dock after work

I had dinner at Bodeens with my parents, sister and my sister’s fiancé.

Then we headed off to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. Photos aren’t allowed so there aren’t any. There was something just perfect about watching the ritual of locking up the tower for the night knowing it has taken place every night for 700 years. 

We were so lucky because as we left a tall ship passed us and Tower Bridge opened. We were in absolutely the right place at the right time.

The final delight of the evening was getting the River Bus home. It was glorious sipping white wine watching the lighted up river banks fly by.

I went to the Pub Quiz, had dinner at K’s, we may not have won but I won a glass of Pimms.

I managed five full days in the office and two evenings out my energy levels are going up and I think I’m getting better.

There was Dinner at my godparents

D came to stay

I had a little adventure with S. We went to Paris on the Eurostar.

I was finally brave enough to go right to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was worth it. On K’s advice we went first thing and had breakfast up there. The hot chocolate was delicious.

When it gets dark it lights up and sparkles. We made a special trip to see it.

We stayed near Montmartre which I love especially in the dark. I know it’s a tourist trap but I don’t care. I also feel I owe it to Mabel Esther Allan aka Jean Estoril to like Montmartre.  We explored once during the day and once at night.

The Galeries La Fayette ceiling

Made a Chalet School Pilgrimage to the Luxembourg Gardens, where small children can still sail boats on the lake. That was very gratifying.

 Specialist dolls house shop in a Parisienne Arcade

CityPharma I spent entirely too much here but French pharmacy brands genuinely are deeply discounted and it is such fun to watch elegant Parisienne ladies squabble over the bargains.

The Garden behind Notre Dame. This was a little oasis of peace and tranquillity in the middle of a hot bustling city. I loved it.

Eating Bertillion’s Ice cream on the Ile St Louis. Truly fabulous.

My ceiling fan in my bedroom – it remains one of the best investments I have ever made.

Unexpected good news

Rereading Joey Goes to the Oberland. It’s a weird book nothing really happens and yet it is one of my favourite Chalet School books. It a fantastic cosy comfort read.

Whiskers has come to stay. I do like visiting cats although this one behaved like a mischievous middle. He’s not meant to be an indoor cat.

Reading My Naughty little Sister with big niece

New sandals I can walk in. I also managed to wear my favourite blue sandals with heels for a short while. This is real progress.

In partnership with my mother we baked these for my nieces birthday cakes.

The joint nieces’ birthday party

Jolly things in June

As I said in my previous post, I was going to give up logging the small things that cheer me up because it seemed so very irrelevant in the light of what has happened. Then I thought a little more and realised that the little pleasures that enrich life actually matter even more when life is challenging. 

I’m a Harry Potter fan and I found myself thinking of Dumbledore and his famous remark that “Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I know purists will say it is from the script of Prizoner of Azkaban and JK Rowling didn’t write it but it doesn’t detract from the meaning.

I need to remember to keep turning that light on and I confess I am taking the advice literally, switching on my fairy lights and lighting candles in the evenings because it makes me feel better. There’s something about lighting a candle in particular that to me reminds me there’s always hope. 

We have a family tradition that wherever in the world we go, when we pass a church we slip inside and light a candle for my grandparents and late great aunt. There’ve been candles lighted for them in places my Granny would never have dreamed we’d go. I like to think she knows and is keeping score.

And so I move on to the things that helped me through June.

I went to a pub quiz night with a friend who cooked me a delicious dinner. I got to make a fuss of Millie cat and the very friendly golden retriever puppy in the pub. W didn’t come bottom either.

I spent a day in Brighton with H – we ate ice cream, drank Gin and wandered along the seafront.

I finished  making the 1940s style dolls house cupboard kit for my dolls house. I’m quite pleased with it for a first attempt.

Last birthday flowers from S – this really has been the gift that kept on giving.

TV evening with Mum. We had a Ziyafet takeaway (delicious Turkish food) and watched The Durrells. I enjoyed it so much I reread My Family and Other Animals at once.

I’ve started knitting again.

A lovely gossipy dinner with L, K and S

I have an outside tap at last – no more carrying the watering can up and downstairs to water my pots.

I have really quite flattering new glasses and clearer sight.

We had the first Barbecue of the year in the garden – we didn’t let rain stop us, the automatic awning on my parents back wall is ace and we stayed dry eating burgers and sausages while the rain poured down. Later we put the patio heater on and determinedly stayed outside in true British fashion. Picnic in the car anyone?

I had some splendid snail mail: from L and A

Bonus flowers from Bloom and Wild

Second Quiz night lovely dinner, Millie Cat, Gin and friends. We didn’t distinguish ourselves in the quiz but we weren’t last.

Father’s Day barbecue

More foundation garments which actually fit – the joy of a bra that rounds one up and points everything in the right direction without bruising you is grossly underestimated by those who’ve never acquired bruises courtesy of their underwires.

My lovely Podiatrist dealt with my sore heel.

I’ve taken to baking again – I made delicious saffron scones, then I made coffee and walnut cakes for my colleagues and sweet biscuits with my niece. The baking muse is back.

I’ve booked a small adventure – more on that after the event.

My favourite GP is back at the GP practice after a long absence. He did not dismiss my concerns and made all necessary referrals to resolve the problem.

I don’t have skin cancer – always good that one. I had a lesion that isn’t going away although neither is it doing anything very suspicious but it seemed better to have it checked especially as my godmother has had three small skin cancers removed this year. Luckily they are not life threatening and my lesion is harmless.

My lovely Big niece came to stay we had a movie night…and I watched Paddington for the first time. I confess I loved it.

The next morning, Big niece and I went out for breakfast.

Then there was the unexpected excitement of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child i have tickets for November but a friend unexpectedly had a spare ticket which I was delighted to use so I saw it early with D, S, L, K and B and I’m looking forward to watching it again in November. The deal is that like the Mousetrap you don’t spoil it so I won’t. I will say it was a fabulous experience and Jamie Parker is Harry! I saw part 2 on Friday 24th and it probably says it all that for the duration of the play I forgot the ghastly thing that had happened.

My amazing friends 

Ducklings at my grandmother’s nursing home

Blenheim Palace with H and K. It rained more or less all day. Note to self buy a new raincoat and do not believe the weather forecast and go out without a coat. Happily M&S supplied me with a fleece.

Despite the inclement weather we had a lovely day but I’d like to go back and explore  the gardens in less precipitous conditions. You can’t see much huddled under an umbrella. I recommend the ice cream sundaes though.

We had Dinner at El Shami my favourite restaurant in Oxford. I adore Lebanese.

Then there was a coffee and chocolate cocktail very decadent and alcoholic but delicious.

I won £25 on the lottery always a pleasant surprise.

I was miserable about the referendum result so I spent about £8 on flowers to cheer myself up. I recommend Lidl for flowers.

Finally I received a large cheque from southeastern trains as a refund for the unused portion of my season ticket while I was ill. I didn’t even know it was a thing then one of the medical staff told me if you cannot travel due to illness for at least four consecutive weeks because you are signed off you can claim a partial refund. Sure enough the details are well hidden on their website. I followed their instructions and applied expecting them to find a loophole and avoid paying me . However I received a letter saying I met their criteria as having been ‘severely unwell’ – thank you orthopaedic surgeon for that splendid sick note – and my cheque for six weeks refund would follow and it did!

Nothing is certain except death and taxes

It seems I live in interesting times. Work wise we are in an odd sort of limbo which makes purdah seem like a mini break. The official line is keep calm and carry on and so I’m endeavouring to do just that. The odd thing is that for all I see BREXIT as a personal disaster, professionally  it could create some fascinating opportunities. As Pa Ingalls said there’s no great loss without some small gain.

I am still sad and anxious but the nation is spoken and I will have to make the best of it along with 48% of those who bothered to vote.

So I pulled myself together and took my late Granny’s advice. She used to say “Sometimes you need to forget how miserable you are and just do something anything.” Mind you Granny qualified this advice by saying “You may still be miserable but at least you’ll be miserable with clean dishes and clean clothes to wear.” She saw her mother in law die in front of her in the Blitz, cleared up the mess in the house, then went to work so Granny knew a thing or two about facing adversity.
So with her advice in mind, I made a long to do list and then set to it, I cleaned my house, did the laundry, made a meal plan, bought groceries and packed some parcels. There is a certain comfort that comes from making order out of chaos and following simple routines. If I’m honest my life does run more smoothly if I stay on top of domestic tasks and actually do my life admin in good time.

Then I devoted some time to personal grooming and took advantage of Elinor Brent Dyer’s excellent advice and ‘shampooed’ my hair. It was just a shame that I couldn’t do as Madge did and get a professional to do it for me – it would have been more relaxing. Brent Dyer knew what she was talking about, it is easier to face bad news when you look and feel better.

I’m trying hard to be strong and independent rather than the spineless jelly fish I was on Friday.

I was going to stop listing the things that made me happy and then I realised that in uncertain times the small simple pleasures matter more than ever.

So I’ve indulged myself with tea in my favourite mugs or cups and saucers, hot bubble baths, candles and flowers.

As I said to a select group on Friday however ghastly it seems I have amazing, kind, tolerant friends and there will always be theatre, flowers, Gin, books and cats. I’m considering if there’s anyway I can have a kitten.

The sun will go on rising and setting and we will find a way forward even if it is not the way we planned.