Tuesday, 30 November 2010

City Snow

The snow has now arrived in my area of North London so I am contemplating the usual disruption to transport, skidding cars, school closures and usual panic that seizes this city when a touch of real winter arrives. We don't cope well with snow possibly because we don't have enough experience of this type of weather conditions. I love snow in the right places, The Alps, Aspen, Norway - whatever - but ice, slush and lack of four wheel drive vehicles and tyre chains mean the cold "snap" [strange name that Weather People give to these conditions] will be hell unless you can take time off work and build snowmen.

Another strange aspect of these weather conditions is the way it brings the siege mentality of the populace to the fore. Supermarket shelves are emptied of essentials, bread, milk, eggs etc. etc. and even more than usual the Brits are discussing the weather. The one plus is that neighbours actually start talking to one another as opposed to just nodding and "keeping themselves to themselves" and help dig each other's cars out of the snow and ask elderly neighbours if they need any shopping. This is so nice to see - why can't it last? I am probably considered a "nutter" when I talk to strangers on the tube or, and this is considered very risky, actually make eye contact and smile.

Writing about winter conditions has made me drift into thoughts of my escape to Spain just before Christmas, although it did snow for one day last year [and the locals couldn't stop talking about it] it was only for one day and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. I need suggestions for books to take with me, I have just finished the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who played with Fire and The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest]. If you haven't read them yet, don't be put off by the hype the books really are that good. However, now I need some equally good reads for my holiday reading - I read very quickly and will take as many books as I can fit into my baggage allowance. Please send recommendations.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Work Hard - Play Hard

Tomorrow I am off to run a Training Workshop on Relocation and Property Matters for organisations in the Charity Sector. It is actually a Free Workshop and we are providing lunch so, there is such a thing as a "Free Lunch".

Life is a bit hectic at the moment as The Man decided the time was right to redecorate. The Painter has been and gone and now we have a charming fellow from Slovakia laying wooden floors throughout - it will be great when it is finished but at the moment we are moving furniture from room to room and I have brought so many items out to my office at the bottom of the garden that I can just about get to my desk.

On a happier note two of our friends have confirmed their flights to come out and join us on holiday in our place in Spain for a week from Boxing Day [Dec. 26th]. We are also hoping that another two pals will also confirm flights soon. It is a lovely time to escape with friends and in addition there will be the added advantage of more hands to do the olive harvest.

We have just begun advertising our two large family sized apartments for 2011 and we have reduced the costs to make them as affordable as possible in these difficult economic times. The key is to book flights asap as they often end up being the most expensive element but great bargains can be had if you can organise your holiday days early. I know times are hard but my dear Parents who never had much money always dug deep to take us on holiday because we all felt so much better for the break. When my own kids were growing up The Man would drive us half way across Europe to stay in self-catering accommodation and we had some wonderful holidays. We tended to share holiday homes with friends and their children. A group of ten made it possible to afford some amazing places. A villa by an Italian Lake, a Hunting Lodge in the hills above Florence, a beautiful house on top of a hillside filled with lavender in the Var region of France and now we all congregate at our own Masia [traditional Estate Farmhouse] overlooking our own olive grove in the beautiful countryside inland from Alicante.

Tempt yourselves at http://www.vista-alegre.net/

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fog and a new Princess

A couple of posts ago one of my American fellow bloggers posted a comment to me in rhyme which began "A foggy day in London Town" ......

I had been meaning to reply that the idea abroad that we are perpetually wreathed in fog went out with the 1956 Clean Air Act. Well it was lucky that I haven't had time to respond yet because today, guess what, we had a an old-fashioned pea-souper! It was foggy in the early morning, just misty for about an hour midday then down it came again. Lousy visibility for driving and that awful feeling of lingering damp. I am not sure I saw daylight today at all.

The News Stations, TV and Radio, were determined to brighten our day by continuously repeating the news that Prince William and his long-standing girlfriend Kate had anounced their engagement. Amidst all the usual news of economic woes, possible strike action and diminishing pensions it did make a change. I do hope our very invasive media give this new royal couple a chance to have some privacy. Prince William seems to have inherited some of the traits that made his late Mother so popular, he gave Kate the beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring that was Diana's because he wanted in some way to include his Mother in their happiness.

I do believe that the majority of the country are happy for them and are looking forward to celebrating a Royal Wedding probably in the Spring of 2011 but there are some mean-spirited people out there who are ringing into TV and Radio Shows to complain about the cost of a Royal Wedding when we are all having to tighten our belts. This country does seem to have more than its fair share of whingers.

Funnily enough the people interviewed who were most excited about the news were all American tourists - seems US citizens are fonder of our Royals than some Brits. I don't include myself in the party poopers group, good luck and much happiness is wished from this corner of the realm. Kate is starting with one huge advantage over the late Diana, her Prince chose her himself, defied the snobs who looked down on her none-aristocratic family and gave her time to see what she was letting herself in for [being Royal in the UK can be quite an ordeal] before declaring his love in a relaxed TV engagement interview. This was such a stark contrast to the awkward interview I remember Prince Charles and Diana giving when he made the much quoted "whatever that means" answer to be asked how it felt to be in love.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Treats and Guilty Pleasures

Just back from a delicious lunch out. The Man declared we needed a treat and took me to our favourite Fish Restaurant "Toffs" which is in Muswell Hill, North London. They serve the largest and most beautifully grilled Lemon Sole I have eaten anywhere. I boringly always order the same fish but, why not, if it is my favourite.

It has been a busy week with clients to meet all over London. As I've mentioned before I travel around on London Transport and my exercise regime is walking briskly, climbing up the escalators as I exit stations and walkng upstairs when viewing office properties for clients. All this is my substitution for going to a gym and is probably the only reason I am relatively fit and more or less content with my weight and dress size. It would be nice to be a little slimmer but that might mean giving up chocolate and cake which would be a sacrifice too far.

Whilst charging around the City I was very disappointed to see that one of my favourite shops had closed its branch at Moorgate. I have to admit to an addiction to a splendid hardware chain called "Robert Dyas", it is one of those shops you pop into just to have a look around and find yourself buying kitchen gadgets, or bathroom accessories you didn't even know you needed. I have discovered that this is not just my guilty pleasure and that there are quite a few secret R.D. addicts out there. If this is you - declare yourself - you will feel better to be among understanding friends.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Another Tube Strike

Today London Underground was gripped by another 24 hour Tube strike and I had site meetings to get to in Victoria and Islington. I always refuse to be beaten by these strike actions, especially when in this case I am having extreme difficulty in seeing the justice of their cause. When we are all having to face cut backs and draw in our financial belts [so to speak] to get through the recession, causing havoc for other Londoners trying to get to work isn't playing fair.

I made contingency plans and left home extra early which is not easy for me as I do not do early mornings. I used an overground train part of the way into Central London and used one of the few tube lines running with minimum disruption to get to my meeting not just on time but an hour early.

It helps to be very familiar with London and all the various routes; tube, bus and walking.

I was born in London and have lived here all my life. On most days I really enjoy living and working in London but I can understand the frustration of the tourists I met today who were totally lost trying to work out how to get to their hotels on arrival off the Gatwick Express at Victoria without spending a fortune on a taxi. The extra hour I had gained by my fortuitous journey gave me the time to play Transport Guide. It was nice to be able to put my knowledge to good use.