The rowing club. No not that one…

My first weekend living in Putney, being in Putney. I moved in two weeks ago, but spent most of my time driving up and down to York collecting thing (like parking tickets and speeding tickets), forgetting things (like keys), and generally doing what I usually do. So despite being ‘in residence’ it didn’t actually feel like being here.

Last weekend, I disappeared off to Barcelona again at silly o’clock Saturday morning, returning Tuesday, then saw out my final few days with Xerox, chuntering about the South Circular (I’ve commuted hours in the car before, and commuted across London before, but averaging 7mph drove Bruno crazy!).

So I drove to Uxbridge for the last time on Friday, and have since been car-less (for the first time since I was 17) and have not jet-setted off anywhere for at least a week. I think this therefore qualifies me as a resident.

If it didn’t, just to make sure, I’ve just deposited my bike at Putney Cycles for a service, meaning that shanks’s pony really is my only form of transport. The sun is out, so rather than walk home, I decide to go for a little wander in Putney.

Shoe restrictions

I’m a creature of habit. I’m always up for trying new things, sure, but if I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. So jeans. I did have a purge when I moved, getting rid of two pairs to bring my collection down to just 26 pairs… I’d got back up to 27 within four days, sorry. But unlike most ladies, with shoes I’m at the other extreme. I own fewer pairs of shoes than pairs of jeans. This currently comprises five trainers/pumps, three flats, two flip flops, four boots (excluding my amazing brown MinP cowgirl beauties, which I eventually binned after being told by four cobblers that the heel was irreparable – felt like a yellow pages ad. They were my faves. Gutted doesn’t come close), two courts, three workshoes and two heels. By the order listed, you can perhaps tell that I tend to buy shoes in which I feel comfortable rather than buying shoes and having to keep a spare pair in my bag as the preferred pair are unwearable.

AN: one of my mates down here will appreciate this, as he has a thing about people who wear trainers with suits on their way to work! Causes much entertainment and debate!

Anyway. Today, I decide that one of the aforementioned pairs of flats should at least be given an outing (I’ve actually never worn them, they just looked nice and comfy…) So I pop on the black lacy flats and head downstairs for my bike.

It’s not until I’ve dropped my bike off… (hang on, I sense a name coming on here; the car was Bruno, SatNav was Bella, I’m thinking Bambi for the bike? Thoughts?) …and I walk to the end of the road. Ah b’Jesus, my feet are already screaming at me! Right, so a long walk along the river is out then, as is a wander up the high street (I’ve only been as far as the station so far). Ok so How much can I explore between here and home?

The rowing club meets play your cards right… double entendre?

Walking home, I walk past three bars: Thai Square, the Star & Garter and the Duke’s Head. Thai Square was the first reason I liked Putney – 13 years ago, I went in there on a hen do and loved it (think it was just a bar then). But the other two I’ve never tried. So today I decide to try one on the way past. The Star & Garter looks a bit quiet (more Friday night bar than Sunday afternoon pub?) so I carry on. The Duke’s Head looks much the same, more large pub and entrance is on the main road (not the Embankment where I am) but they have what appears to be a basement bar, with tables and chairs outside by the river. So I figure that looks worth a try…

The Rowing Club

Erm. Ok, so not what I expected? Outside is heaving, with all tables taken and people standing on the riverside pavement enjoying a beer. Inside, aside from being empty, is playing chillout / R&B music, like you’d expect in a bar in town early evening, and the decor kind of reflects that too? The building has a more exposed brickwork theme which doesn’t seem to match? But the bar is the best bit – surrounded by white bulbs, it’s reminiscent of Bruce’s play your cards right and throws me completely! So I think I’ll test the water… The outside suggests conservative relaxation, the I side more like a lost pimp. I order a coffee… The barmaid (?) looks at me bemused. Tell me she knows what coffee is? And responds with “uh, you have to go upstairs for that” brilliant! This is going to be fun! I cant leave now, so my response is simply “better have a Peroni then hadn’t I?!” Maid pours my pint and sits it on the bar in from of me, muttering something about £3.81… I hand over four pound coins and a penny… She walks off to the till and looks at the cash in her hand as though it’s Rubbels… Eventually she drops it into the till and comes back with 11p (?) saying “you gave me too much” drops it into my hand, looks at the two chaps either side of me and suddenly looks like she’s been presented with Giles Brandreth’s tie breaker – who does she serve next?… Brilliant! I have to come back here one evening, just to see if the bizarre choice of decor has a purpose…

Ttfn B xx

Update:

A couple have just walked in, had a good look round, and as they left I heard him say “yeah this is a bit weird…” I rest my case!

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Loving train travel in Barcelona

Last year, I visited 12 countries, as many airports, and was only denied a stamp in my passport on one occasion. But you’d think this means I’m a dam hand at navigating airports, right? Nope. On the contrary, I can never remember which airport is which, and I haven’t visited many airports more than twice. However, on arrival at Barcelona, it all comes flooding back… I land in T1 and remember that the train to Sants goes from T2 (I flew in/out of there last time), and there’s a shuttle bus going round the terminals (the driver of which has little personality or much senses of humour when it comes to confusing his passengers, especially those wanting to board his busy bus with their bicycles), and when you get into T2 there’s a raised walkway to take you across to the station (which has a decidedly musty smell and a very uneven floor), and that said walkway is accessed from the end of the check-in hall (which I walked up and down at least twice last time, looking for the way through to security) and the automated ticket machines are a far better bet than queuing at the wrong ticket booth, twice.

So I get to the station without looking at a sign or asking for directions. I feel pleased with myself and, in the daring hope that I’m blending in as a local, I suddenly have a pang of sympathy for the poor chap in front of me, who can’t fathom how to get the ticket machine to display in English, even though he’s pressed the button with flags on it? He stands and stares at the machine, confusion building on his face, and I can just see the cogs turning in his head. “I pressed the button but nothing changed? Maybe if I press it again, it’ll work. Maybe I didn’t press it hard enough?” He’s still confused, and whilst it’s amusing trying to guess what he’s thinking, the queue behind us is building. So I give up on my attempt not to appear a foreigner, and I explain that every time he presses the button, the small word at the top of the screen is changing to say “Product combinations” in various languages. When he recognises the English variant, he also clocks that the buttons have also changed, and one of these says “other tickets”. He selects this and he’s off… no really, he’s giving up and going to a booth! Don’t do it! They’ll trick you! They’ll wait until you’re at the front of the queue then tell you you need to be at a different booth! Trust me! No? Tempted to watch his unfortunate episode continue, I simply buy my ticket and wander off down to the platform.

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After not too long, the train pulls in, I board and find a seat. We’re only minutes into our journey, when I hear what sounds like Clouseau tuning up his strat… ah I’d forgotten about this from the airport train last time – serenade from an old chap playing a violin. He’s actually quite good! Not convinced the passengers around him are too interested though; most are wearing headphones and probably listening to One Direction or Enrique. Oh hang on, he’s changing his style… he’s gone from Vivaldi’s Autumn, to something vaguely resembling Bach’s Toccata & Fuge… Is he trying to wake everyone up, or simply demonstrate his skills? Not sure but he’s also trying the classic lean in tactics too, to make sure the people he’s serenading are aware he’s there. Meanwhile they’re trying desperately to ignore that he’s there, so they don’t feel obliged to hand over any money! It reminds me of Manuel and Polly entertaining the guests at Fawlty Towers on gourmet night when Basil dives out for a duck!

Ole! Bxx

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A seasoned traveler? Me?

It’s been a long time since I had to get up early, and have my wits about me. So in the back of my mind, I was convinced that, this morning, something would not go according to plan.

I live 10 miles from the world’s busiest airport – getting there will be easy…

My flight to Barcelona is scheduled to leave T5 at 07:10. So I need to be at Heathrow for around 05:30 / 05:45. Challenge #1. My first flight as a London resident, I just assumed that getting from Putney to Heathrow would be straightforward, right? Wrong. The first tube westbound on the Piccadilly line starts at 05:30, but sets off from Acton, not the city. So I’d need to get to Acton by 05:25, which means getting a bus. But again, at that time in the morning, buses are still in night bus mode, and it’s Saturday, meaning not all routes are running that early. So I’d have to head into town, change, then head back out of town. Basically, I’d need to leave Putney at about 3am to hit Heathrow (10 miles away) at 05:45… erm, No.

So I look at car parking – I still have Bruno until next Friday, so I could always drive, right? But psychologically, the idea feels wrong – this is London; everyone’s told me I wouldn’t need a car living here. So to resort to driving 10 miles to the airport just feels wrong, especially when I’ve managed to do without the car on flights to Australia, Abu Dhabi and Budapest, flying from Stansted, Leeds Bradford and Gatwick, whilst living in Yorkshire… erm, No.

So the alternative is a taxi. Black cabs are notoriously expensive, so I look at Addison Lee, which proves to be more expensive than four days in T5’s on-site car park! So I check out local cab firms in Putney… with no idea which are reputable, reliable, or even still in business, I’m working blind. Then I figure, why not ask a local – obvious, right? So I ask my flatmate, Anna, who has lived in Putney for six years. She readily hands over the names of three firms, with varying degrees of ‘recommendation’ ranging from “they’re cheap and you may even get there in one piece” to “ he’s a darling and will look after you”. The latter, Robert, sounds preferable and when I tell Anna it’s for an early morning airport run, she says “ah yeah, I’d definitely use Robert for something like that”. So I text Robert and he responds almost immediately, saying it’s no problem, he’ll pick me up at 05:10. I feel very smug at having organised this four days in advance, until I get a text from Robert on Friday night to say he’d forgotten he’s going out and therefore won’t be up early enough! But he’s arranged for his friend Matt to do it instead. Hmmm… suddenly I start thinking (yes I know, at 36 it’s about time…) I’m being passed from one stranger to another, it’s all very friendly, should I be a bit more cautious? Pah; thinking back to Honkers last year, and the point I made about daring to try things and go with it, I figure that Robert’s been recommended by Anna, and is now trying to keep my business having made a boo boo. I also recall the number of times I’ve said I prefer to use a supplier who’s cocked-up before, and made good, as you know you can rely on them if things go pear-shaped. Therefore I decide not to worry about whether Matt will turn up in a 1982 Nissan Sunny, without a driving licence, and turn out to be an axe murderer. Taxi sorted.

Early night required… dream on, it’s an #f1weekend!

You’d think I would be a pro at packing by now, but the weather forecast for this weekend in Barcelona is not looking typical. It’s 17 degrees, with sunshine and showers. That’s not right? I only do sunny Grand Prix, except Spa, where I take more layers than sunscreen. My approach to F1 is to buty the cheap tickets, which get you into the circuit, then let you wander round, find a spot, throw down a rug, have a picnic and enjoy the race and a day in the sunshine. Rain? In Spain? That wasn’t in the plan. For a start, my waterproofs and F1 umbrella (yes, I have a designated race brolly, which is short enough to fit in my hand luggage ort across the back of a motorbike, yet still opens up to be a big golf-sized shelter) are all now in storage in Yorkshire, as I hadn’t expected to need them until Germany in July. Bugger. So what do I pack?

In true feminine fashion, I spend at least two hours bringing out all kinds of outfits, laying them on my bed and pondering. Over a glass of something cold. With the radio on. And intermittent yakking with Anna. And a phone call to the Mercedes garage to see what the weather’s doing in Barcelona. Eventually, at around 11:30, I zip up my case and fall into bed. As soon as I close my eyes I remember at least two things I’ve forgotten to pack. But because I’ve painted my toenails this evening, I’ve been barefoot for the past three hours and my feet (and the rest of me) are freezing, so there’s no way I’m hopping back out of bed to grab my Barca guide and Mercedes hat now… I’ll have to remember them in the morning.

I double-check my alarm (which I set whilst at work earlier, in case I forgot to do it tonight) and discover that I’d clearly been distracted earlier, having set it for 14:07 (no, I’ve no idea either?!!) so I reset it for 04:30, tweet that I need to be up early (you never know, if Lewis sees it he might just drop me a call at 04:31 to make sure I’m up?… I live in hope…) and I close my eyes again.

At approximately 01:30 I open them again., reach for my phone (clock), chunter a bit, and close my eyes again. Half an hour later, I’m convinced I’ve slept in and reach for the phone again. Nope, I’m still early. This routine continues until 04:30, when I’m awoken from a deep sleep by Fleetwood Mac screaming “Chaaaaaain, keep us together, running in the shadows” and I drag myself out of bed, straight to the cupboard to retrieve my Barca guide and hat, then wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

Sunrise in London

Convinced I’ve left nothing, but deciding to throw in a light cardigan just in case it’s chilly, I zip up my case, neck a glass of Barocca, and my phone bleeps. Lewis! He remembered! No, it’s Matt, telling me he’s downstairs and ready when I am. He’s 10 minutes early. I’m impressed. I totter downstairs and out onto the riverbank…

And am immediately happier. Not only has Matt turned out to be in a shirt and tie, driving a black Mercedes E Class, but the sun is just coming up over the river, it’s rained overnight (so the air smells fresh) and Putney bridge looks just beautiful with the morning sun reflecting of its brickwork.

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AN: I have a thing about bridges, no idea why, but I just love them. I loved the Orwell bridge in Ipswich when I was 10, I loved the bridges in Bordeaux when there on holiday in my teens, and my favourite of York’s bridges is Ouse bridge, where I could sit for hours and just look at it. Sorry, I’ll get my coat!

Putney bridge bears a vague resemblance to Ouse bridge, and this morning ti’s a welcome sight as my eyes become accustomed to daybreak. Matt takes my case, opens the car door, and I wonder what the flip I was worried about! In the car, he tells me that both he and Robert used to work for a local Putney firm, but have since set up on their own in Mayfair… makes sense now, Anna uses them for clients, they were always going to be respectable weren’t they?

BA do paperless, well; sorry Xerox!

Matt drops me at Heathrow and I head straight through security. This is the first time I’ve gone totally paperless but unlike the taxi, I’m not at all worried. The BA app on my iPhone lets me monitor and check-in for all my forthcoming flights, as well as creating digital boarding card, showing gate / boarding details and live updates. I’ve used this before, but always had a printed boarding card on me too, just as a back-up (I have to keep Xerox in the paper business for one more week, don’t I?!) But last time I tried the digital boarding card, I had a slight snagette. My 13:30 flight was delayed to 14:15 and as BA updated the airport information boards, my app kept in sync and was also updating… but by the time we eventually boarded (14:17), all passengers were at the gate so they stopped updating the information boards and my app therefore assumed we’d boarded. My boarding card and flight details were thus archived and my ‘next flight’ information had moved on to show the return leg of my journey. At this point, I was still queuing at the gate, so when asked for my boarding card, I had to rummage around for the paper version in my handbag, as the digital version was no longer available from my phone. Not great BA – bug fix required!

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So today I’m giving it another go, without a safety net. I hold my phone over the sensor as I go through security, and it beeps me through. I hold it over the tills in duty free (Chanel top-up and Anthon Bergs are a necessity, right?) and my transaction processes without issue. I hold it on the scanner at the gate, and am ushered straight down the tunnel onto the plane, and with a final wave of my phone in front of the welcoming BA cabin attendants, I’m in my seat in no time, and with no paper. I’m impressed BA, I like this. Just need to ensure my battery is charged (as we all know that’s going to happen at some point, right?!)

Not convinced I’m quite awake yet, but pleasantly surprised that my anticipated logistical stumbles have not materialised, I’m sitting in my window seat and the pleasantry that is our BA Captain comes over the tanoy: “Good Morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and a very warm welcome on board this British Airways flight to Barcelona. We are on time this morning, and the kind crew here at London Heathrow have managed to squeeze us a nice early take-off slot, in around 25 minutes’ time. We have about 20 minutes to taxi down to the runway before we take to the skies, so please ensure you give our cabin team your full attention this morning as they take you through the safety procedures. The weather in Barcelona is a little cloudy but a pleasant 17 degrees. As we get a bit closer, I’ll come back to you with more information about the local weather and our arrival time. In the meantime, thank you for choosing to fly with British Airways, and just sit back and enjoy your flight.” I do like BA – they speak to passengers as though this was their first ever flight, not as though they’re reading the same script over and over again, with little tone, pitch change or meaning to what they’re actually saying. Instead, BA always seems welcoming, friendly, respectful and have a touch of the old English classicism about them. I like this. A lot. So I’ll do as I’m told; I’ll pay attention, then sit back and enjoy my flight. (I didn’t realise the escape slides could be inflated manually? You learn something new every time. A-ha, breakfast…)

Adios amigos Bxx

The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only

…there is no stopping in the white zone.

Anyone who has seen the epic 80s movie Airplane! will recognise why this made me giggle; I look out if the window while the ground crew prepare the plane for departure, to see this chap! I want to slide the window back and hand him my AmEx card, a la Captain Clarence Over!

We have clearance Clarence.
Roger Roger.
What’s our vector Victor?

Brilliant xx

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Blessed are the cheesemakers

A week on Friday, a few work friends are coming out for drinks at Charing Cross after my last day at Xerox. So challenge for today is to find / recce a few pubs to find a venue. But before I drink, I must eat, right? So I grab a Pret and cop a squat on the steps outside the National Gallery.

In the name of JESUS

A great place to people watch… Opposite me is a girl reading a book. Why not find a bench? Somewhere quiet? Or at least in the sun? No, god knows what she’s reading but I hope it’s good!

There’s a crowd gathered watching a street entertainer; can’t see what he’s up to but the periodic roars of laughter suggest he’s good, either that or they’re laughing at Brian…

Wandering round pulling a wheelie case, holding a big red microphone, Brian is blessing people, places, things, anything, everything… “in the name of JESUS” where the stress he puts on the first syllable of the word sounds more like James Earl Jones than Eric Idle. I’m just waiting for him to bless the Cheesemakers, I’ll be happy then, they have a hell of a time…

I finish my Tuna Nicoise, take in the view, then decide its time to recce. So I head for Charing Cross station and look for Gordon’s Wine Bar (recommended by a highly reputable London-based Events company called Plain Jane). I’m told it’s cheese & wine but no beer, which may rule it out for next Friday, but I may need to know of it for future reference right?

Gordon’s looks fab but I’m more intrigued by what I spot outside… the Victoria Embankment Gardens – hidden gem or what? This place is fab! Riverside location, stripey deck chairs to take the weight off, and plenty of space for me to throw down my scarf and cop a squat on the grass 🙂

Freda, Barry and Bon Jovi

Before long, Freda and Barry rock up; a middle-aged couple whose lack of shopping bags tells me they’re just out strollin’. As they sit down on the bench in front of me, Barry does the classic ‘arms in the air’ yawn, returning his right arm behind Freda – smooth Barry, smooth…

Luckily for Barry, we have cabaret… On the next bench is Jon, perhaps a little worse for wear, but happy as a clam belting out Bon Jovi’s “Always” (at least i think that’s what it was; not quite in tune, lyrics weren’t far off, but everyone is smiling so who cares!)

Before I know it, I’ve been here an hour, still not tried any pubs, but having a chilled out afternoon. Next time the sun goes behind a cloud, I’ll head over and sample a cava at Gordon’s…

Ttfn Bxx

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D-day… I’m meant to be packing!

Shattered

You know when you know you have to be up early to crack on first thing, drive somewhere, go on holiday, or do something significant; do you sleep well? Never. Instead you wake up and look at the clock, repeatedly, thinking it’s at least an hour since you last looked, but find it’s only been 20 minutes or so. And by the time you should be getting up, you’re so shattered, all you want to do is sleep a bit more? *snooze*

Peace before the mayhem

Ok I’ve dragged myself up – I’ve been excited about this for ages, but now that buzz has been replaced by a tired head, and frustration that I can’t just crawl onto the couch with a bowl of porridge and James Martin. C’mon B, sort it out, girl!

I had in fact planned this (obviously, this is me) so knew I’d treat myself to breakfast out this morning. I figured, I’ll spend all morning packing the car, unpacking the car (when that last box won’t go in), taking stuff out of said last box, distributing it between other boxes, repacking car, finding newly-sized boxes no longer fit in positions they were before… And when I (finally) get to the other end, I’ll spend all afternoon lifting boxes up 8 flights of stairs, so will be exhausted by the time I’m done! Hence, 5 minutes of peace and calm is allowed before the mayhem begins (scheduled mayhem that is, this is me).

However, perhaps Costa wasn’t the best place for ‘peace’ or ‘calm’…?

… no, just mayhem

I’m sitting by the window. There are the typical couple of ladies out for a flat white before shopping, a pair of chaps who probably drove their wives into town to shop and are now keeping out of the way for an hour or so, a father and son debating whether son wants white milk or chocolate milk in his cappuccino (son can’t be more than 5), and another chap trying to decide if he wants chocolate sprinkles (must be at least 60. Years, not sprinkles). This is typical of most Costas I’d say; until a birthday party enters.

I kid you not. It’s 9.30am. No they haven’t been out all night either. Must be about 10 of them, and they’re now trying to rearrange the furniture to accommodate their group. This project is led by Gok – a real luvvie, who appears to know precisely what should happen, just as other people are doing it, but still gives “why not try…yes, perfect” type comments, as the rest of the group pull tables together.

This Krypton Factor challenge causes much entertainment to the shopping chauffeurs, who are transfixed, staring at Gok… not sure whether it’s him or the Krypton Factor that intrigues them (they’re getting on a bit, and this is Yorkshire) but their conversation has stopped…

I can’t wait to people watch in London… dammit I’m meant to be packing, it’s 10am already, bugger!

Ttfn Bxx