Lavender in London

Last weekend I was suddenly presented with the rare and delicious prospect of a free weekend! No work, no washing and no pesky visitors begging to be entertained….(!) What should I do with this shining haven of freedom? The whole of London awaited me! So naturally, I caught the train with a friend and headed out of the bustling city into the wilderness of Carshalton Beaches in search of the Pick your own Lavender Harvest.

It wasn’t quite the rolling lavender fields of France or the glorious weather of the Cote D’azure for that matter,  but the field was the most delightful, homely and soothing haven to ever be hidden in the middle of a small allotment surrounded by suburban houses.

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Entry to the event is completely free, you only pay for the Lavender you pick and even that is cheap. On the way to the Lavender, you pass by disgruntled old men standing in their runner bean patches, grumbling to one another about the “up from Londoners” who have – in their eyes – infested their once tranquil plots.

Once you arrive at the main site you are surrounded by a selection of dinky stalls, all selling lavender related goods -honey, cake, tea, soap, knitted elephants (granted some things were less related than others). It is amongst these stalls that you find a little tent providing buckets and scissors to all who wish to pick. After a quick visit to this tent  – and a brief warning about bees along the lines of: “If they sting you then you probably deserved it you wuss” –  you are set free, rented scissors in hand, to roam the field until you are either too hungry to carry on or your bunch of lavender is too big to drag behind you any further.

 

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The bees are your friends

 

 

The tranquillity amongst the plants is totally blissful. Listening to the bees buzzing and the brief snippets of other pickers conversations as you lazily wander along, stopping every now and then to snip idly at flowers that take your fancy, it is so easy to lose yourself.

 


Once we had gathered as much Lavender as we could we headed, bouquets in hand, directly for the now closing stalls to gorge on Lavender infused ice tea and gooey Honey flapjacks. As delicious as this was it did not satisfy our outdoor appetites and so a quick stop at the village bakery was definitely called for.

The train ride home was one of the sweetest things to witness, everyone arrived and boarded the train clutching their little bunches of lavender.

 

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Spoils of war – took ages to get this much

 

 

 

This event only happens once a year but all proceeds go directly to the charity that keeps the Lavender project going. So if you are in London next Lavender season keep an eye out for this event – or others like it. It really is a wonderful, cosy way to spend an afternoon – even if it’s raining. You can find out more about the project here.

A Scottish Girl’s Guide to Eating Out in London

The idea of writing this guide to finding London’s finest dining was suggested by one of my oldest friends – word of advice:  those guys have dirt on you… always do what they say. They are wise, admirable people who can tell your new not-from-home friends all about the mouse hospital you ran together out of a shed at age 9 and they remember the time you fell out face first out of the van and sprained your ankle….

So here it is (no blackmail included)!!! The first “Scottish Girls guide to Eating Out in”, I hope there is something to each of your tastes. I have included a link to their sites in the titles and a rough price guide for those of you sticking to your budget – well done you frugal Badgers!

 

7 bright and scrummy places to brighten up your summer dining:

 

Chicken LiquorBrixton  

PRICING:   💪   💪

Every time I leave London I am comforted by the knowledge that I will soon be back and be able to visit this magical, disgustingly delicious haven of friend chicken, milkshake and fries. From their “Dirty Chicken Burger” to their Jack Daniel’s infused “Honey Shake”  the whole place oozes decadent, greasy delight. No meal here is complete without a stack of deep fried mac and cheese logs –  honestly, these sound disgusting but they are so so good, especially with the spicy tomato sauce that comes as a side.

If chicken isn’t your thing (weirdo) there is also a restaurant in Covent Garden called Meat Liquor which serves more meaty meat.Don’t panic though the sides are the same.

Turtle BayBrixton

PRICING:    💪

This place is amazing! A total haven of Caribbean food washed down with healthy amounts of Rum. This is an old time favourite for my brother and his girlfriend and was the venue for our joint graduation dinner (No shame about graduating the same week as my little brother… cough… cough). Scrumptious Goat curry or maybe a sumptuously gooey goats cheese and Mushroom Burger wouldn’t be the same without being followed promptly by a whopping helping of Rum &  Raisin Bread Pudding covered in Ice cream and partnered with wonderful – cheap –  rum based cocktails.

Comptoir Libanais – South Ken. (and other places)

Pricing:    💪   emoticon

This has become my go to restaurant when dragging guests for a day out at the good old Natural History Museum. Unfortunately, I am not very good with directions so I only ever find this by accident or by pretending to show a guest around London whilst internally cursing my sense of direction. This place is bright and fun and perfect for shaking off that rainy afternoon museum funk you’ve worked up. The food is delicious and cheap and there is lots of it. Some of the best Halloumi I have tasted. They also sell freshly made lemonade in a range of yummy flavours.

Gail’s Artisan Bakery – Pimlico (and other places)

PRICING:   💪   💪   emoticon  emoticon  Turtle Emoji (Apple/iOS Version)

Although this is a chain and some of its products are extortionate (yes, I once paid £5 for a loaf of bread by mistake and nearly died) it is definitely my favourite Breakfast/brunching spot. Their french toast topped with a heap of Maple bacon and syrup is honestly one of the best things I have ever eaten although, word to the wise, their coffee kinda sucks so maybe stick with tea? They also do a range of delicious little cakes, sandwiches and nibbles, if you are so inclined, as well as a selection of other cooked breakfasts.

 

GrumblesPimlico

PRICING:    💪

This is a true life saver at £14 for a two course Sunday Roast and free corkage on Mondays! Don’t mind if I do. If you have clever friends like I do then they will come up with the suggestion of sharing a starter, having your own main and then sharing a desert… my mind was blown by her beautiful intelligence. The food is pretty good and there is plenty of it. But it’s the staff who make the experience as they are so friendly and chilled out it really makes the experience.  I would suggest sitting outside, on the terrace so that you can watch Pimlico roll by and also ogle Gail’s French toast from across the road.

 

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Watermelon, Feta and Basil Salad

 

Moo Cantina Argentina – Pimlico (and others)

PRICING:    💪  💪  emoticon

I love this bar! Their beer garden is a few feet from the main road and like a little slice of the jungle to hide in; everything in it is bright and fun. The drinks are pretty cheap with Happy Hour running every evening on beers and selected cocktails it really is a great place to nip into on the way home. Moo isn’t just about the drinks either! The steak is amazing and they have 20% off every Tuesday as well as special set lunch menus during the week. This place is fun, a great place to chill, drink and eat.

My Old Dutch – Holborn (and other places)

PRICING:   💪  emoticon

Pancakes!!! I love pancakes!! Who doesn’t love pancakes? Giant, delicious, wondrous pancakes what more can I say? I was in awe of this place and totally misjudged my pancake abilities on the first visit. I have never been so full – or so happy – as when I ordered their cheese and ham pancake and had it along side a massive Matilda inspired, candy floss, Milk Shake. I disgraced my self by not finishing my pancake but it was so worth it. Delicious and not too expensive.

 

I hope you have found something inspiring on this list, even if it’s just a cup of tea and a nibble at Gail’s. I would like to say a massive thank you to all my wonderful friends who accompanied me on these “research” ventures.

 

 

If you have any suggestions for secret places to eat in London then please do leave a little message in the comments as I would love to know about them.

Grounded in the City

It’s three o’clock on a Saturday morning and you’re awake. Not because you’re out partying, surrounded by friends. Nor because you’re one of those strange people who awake at daybreak to greet the sunrise with yoga and a sprint around Hampstead Heath with your SO. No, you went to bed at 11, slept for an hour and then woke up, for no reason other than that you have to work at 4 pm and your brain chose to remind you a whole 13 hours in advance (just in case).

Suddenly you remember that you didn’t set up the tables for the morning and you can’t remember if this is your job or not. Your life is ruined and subsequently any chance of future sleep. Instead, you must sit listening to the birds have way more fun than you are likely to have ever again. So here I am, munching on a lonely Stroop Waffle (possibly smuggled back from Holland two months ago – don’t judge its an emergency) and nursing a mug of tea in the hope that it will soothe me back to dreamland.

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It’s going to be a beautiful day!

At times like these, it is hard to remember why I am working in a job that doesn’t suit, in a city I can’t afford, with people I don’t know. Then I remember that in a few months I will hopefully be free to go anywhere. Like all travellers, I have to remind myself: “Don’t do the crime (wonderful, amazing, delicious adventures) if you can’t do the time (boring, soul destroying, sleep depriving work)”.

So to all those doing the time out there, I’m rooting for you! You are awesome so just keep swimming.

A Scottish Girl’s Guide to Entertaining in London.

If you are anything like me the idea of having to play host makes you feel a little queasy. I have never been good at planning special little events for guest… even in London, a place where there is always something to do.

So, as I have now waved off both friends onto their next adventures, I felt it would be safe to share a few of my “entertaining in London” secrets with you all. Just in case you find yourselves in the same predicament as I did where sitting in the dark watching endless episode of American Dad will no longer hack it.

Hosting (Accidental Style)

Arrive late:

To really kick off friend number one’s visit start as you mean to go on by arriving at the bus station half an hour late and sweaty (you got lost, confused and angry on the way, turns out you don’t know London as well as you thought).  Friends will really appreciate the early morning standing around experience. Plus they can watch all the London buses and get used to cars being on the wrong side of the road – my lateness benefited them really.

Speed River Walk and Lunch:

Drag friend one out into the sunshine with a vague plan of what to do with them. Randomly decide the Thames is nice so sprint past all the boring buildings – Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the whole of Waterloo/South Bank on the way to the Thames beaches. Spout useless information and made up facts as you go –  you’re not sure but you think it has a tide and yes the plague is still living in the water. Arrive at St Paul’s and wander aimlessly around the outside pretending you know how to get home from here, try your best to make up excuses not to go in (that cost £20pp!!!!). Choose a random direction and end up in Leister Square – spend £20 on two coffees and a sandwich in super nice hipster cafe- lie about the exchange rate and pretend that is a normal price…. Die inside….

Ditch:

I’m a firm believer in independence, so upon arriving at Chez Lulu one is given a vague, whirlwind training about how to make your way home using the landmarks on the horizon – they line up I swear. This is accompanied with a brief disclaimer about if you get lost on the opposite side of said landmarks it’s your own fault. This was all friend one got before I legged it out the door to work, leaving him to wander around alone and hope they made it back before I finished work.

 

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“Just turn right on the street with the fuzzy trees…”

 

An unexpected day off on day two suddenly meant that I had to put effort into thinking of something exciting to do.

Museum:

I opted for the time-old saviour of Parents, teachers and crappy hosts alike by taking friend one to the Natural History Museum (this was mainly selfish as I wanted to check on my Dino friends and the giant sloth… it’s been a while). I was in luck, friend one had this on the list of things to do in London and so was delighted to be carted off unceremoniously to the building full of dead things.

 

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My saviour in times of desperation.

 

Ditch Again (that’s ultimate hosting):

As you drift peacefully around the stuffed pelicans and bits of rock you suddenly realise that friend number two is due to arrive in fifteen minutes and you are a good half an hour from the station. Abandon friend one to do the second floor of the museum alone (they’ll be fiiiiiine!). Remember as you leg it through the underground that friend one is an idiot who did not take their phone with them. Collect friend two and make them take an hour bus journey on the hottest bus in the world through rush hour traffic because you couldn’t be bothered with the 10-minute tube journey (never admit this to them). Ply friend two with tea and cake. Two hours later begin to panic about friend one who has still not returned. Plan elaborate rescue missions then remember you’re an idiot and couldn’t even find you’re way out of the museum earlier. Try and keep agitated pacing to a minimum in front of friend two as you battle with the guilt of ditching friend one. Trick yourself into believing that it will just add to their adventure in London.

 

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The dodo will watch over your friend. 

 

Embrace the British:

Once friend one has reappeared and forgiven you, drag both off to the park equipped with beers to experience the true British summer time. Sit amongst the stoners and fitness freaks in Battersea Park. Once all beer has been consumed drag everyone out for late night fish and chips, panic when you realise you know of nowhere to sit –  friend two is strangely averted  to walking the ten minute back home to eat there….. end up sitting on the benches in front of the British Passport Office shoving battered fish into your face (this counts as cultural right?). After completing your tour of British cuisine suddenly realise your friends are demanding a bar…. remember area you live in is made for old people and there are only old man pubs. Throw a mini tantrum and force them into a rubbish pub at closing time as neither friend will cooperate or get the tube to somewhere more interesting. Return home and sit on the roof with a bottle of rum and your amazing flatmate as compensation for the crappy nightlife in the area.

 

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Debut you’re beutiful gardening skills. 

 

 

Wave them off in style:

Both friends were leaving at different times on the same day. Friend two at six in morning, friend two in the evening – guess which one I hate the most now….! As I dragged myself out of bed and tried to make my drunken legs cooperate on the seventy-five million stairs my house is made up of I was cursing friends two’s name.

As we approached the bus station it turned out friend two had not remembered to buy a ticket (damn non-Londoners!) and there was a panic standing in the queue as he tried to force PayPal to work, whilst still being pretty smashed. With friend two safely off to his next destination, friend one and I crawled our way home via Gregs for bacon rolls and doughnuts (standing outside waiting for Greg’s to open on a Saturday morning was an experience).

Picnic:

As I was now out of ideas  (and energy and fucks to give) I opted for the easy way out of entertaining by suggesting a true British Picnic in the Park. We stocked up on all the M&S tapas collection and juice we could carry before waddling our way to Green Park. Here we stayed in the blissful sunshine. The smugness of knowing I had entertained everyone during their visit by just feeding them in different locations or getting them drunk, washed over me. A little part of me hoped it would rain on our picnic so that the experience of summer in the U.K. would be complete.

 

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Memoirs from a different picnic… was too busy eating for photos.

 

Wave them off in Style (Revisited):

Once you have completed the picnic, walk slowly back home (it’s impossible to walk too fast after feasting on hummus and ham) via the pub for Pimms as a last minute “this is British summer time” experience. Suddenly realise friend one is just as unorganised as friend two and have a last minute panic pack session before sprinting to the coach station where the angry bus people scream at you and complain about there being no time (I don’t understand why they are so angry… is it the fluorescent jackets?!?). Wave off friends unceremoniously as they hurl themselves onto the coach.

Exhaustion:

Crawl your way back home and dive under the bed covers to sleep for a hundred years, satisfied in the knowledge that you no longer need to offer others cups of tea. Operation entertain guests complete.

As you regress back to watching American Dad tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if they enjoyed themselves or not…. At least no-one died.

 

 

I hope you have found this guide useful, I’d love to hear about some of the tricks you guys use when you have to entertain guests. Feel free to comment and share below. Happy entertaining. 

Life in the City

Those days when you wake up to the sun streaming through your window, check your phone and instantly descend into a chest contracting, stomach flipping fit of panic. Those days are definitely a sure sign that you are back to grown up life.

As your head is sinking into despair from the knowledge that you are over an hour late for work the world seems bleak. Thoughts race through your mind. Should you call them? Let them know you’re not dead? Would they care? Maybe you should be dead,,, that way you wouldn’t have to live with the embarrassment of scuttling in so late. How could you have slept so long? Why didn’t your alarm go off? Maybe it’s broken? Maybe you’re sick? Yup… you’re definitely sick…! Maybe you are dying…. is that good?

 

As I prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the call I was going to have to make it suddenly dawned on me how much of a fool I am. It was five in the morning not five in the afternoon…! I wasn’t late and I wasn’t dying. I didn’t have to buy a new phone and I wasn’t going to be shamed for arriving at work late (ironically this happened a few days later when I read the rota wrong…. ).

 

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The culprit of my wake up call… the sunshine.

 

In those first few moments of my day, I had experienced far too many emotions to be considered good for one’s health. As the palpitations subsided and I regained rational thought I  gave myself a serious talking to and vowed to buy curtains as soon as possible.

Welcome back to London living.

My Mother and the Pineapple

Everyone, upon returning from an adventure, has that moment of true realisation that they are once again home and no longer swanning around doing what they like. I feel however that my moment of ‘awakening’ was a little different from that of others.

The dogs had begun their afternoon whinge for a walk protest and so my mum and I had headed off, somewhat reluctantly, to “stretch their doggy paws” (that is my mother’s term, not mine…) and make ourselves feel like we had done a “good deed for the day” (also my mother – I think she should get out more…). As we stomped our way solemnly up and down the various surrounding hills I was vaguely listening to the tales my mum had about what had been happening in the valley while I was away – including her explanations about where frogspawn comes from. I was so engrossed in timing my “I’m listening noises” that I almost missed the story that brought me back to the real world and to the realisation that I am toughly back home.

What caught my interest was that she was practically hopping up and down with excitement and kept saying things like: “Well it was probably just a storm in a tea cup but ooooh….” and “It was ever so exciting…”. She had me intrigued so – after puffing herself up with pride in order to embark this great tale of woe in which she felt she played a crucial role – she started her story.

As far as I can understand the main characters are a bench, a cross bow, an elderly couple, my mother, a Yam and a pineapple…

I couldn’t wait to hear how this would unfold… unfortunately, I’d forgotten we live in a tiny village… in the middle of nowhere…. Where nothing ever happens….

From what I can gather my mum went on a walk one day and found that someone had moved the bench. Mummy Sherlock didn’t like this so decided to investigate only to find that the culprit had left behind a yam and a pineapple. Thoroughly perturbed she grumbles her way home in order to inform my dad of these strange goings on… he’ll look later…

 

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The scene of a crime most foul!

 

The next day an anxious elderly couple knock on the door to say that there have been some strange goings on in the wood. Someone had shot the unsuspecting bench at the top of the hill with a crossbow and the villain in question had left the arrow right so deeply embedded in the wood that no one could remove it. The police were called and my mum assists them in their search…

This was where her story ended… they never solved it and I believe mum was a little disappointed when all I wanted to know was why was there a Pineapple. Apparently, this was the wrong response.

Country Living

Although it’s lovely coming back home and seeing the family there is always the small issue of the countryside. I love the countryside… don’t get me wrong: hills, grass, trees, animals, mud …….DUNG…..

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Lovingly tending his poop crop.

 

That’s the main one. The main feature of those rolling hills that surround our house. Poo is everywhere especially when home comes with two, rather over friendly (otherwise known as rude), collie dogs, each with a penchant for poop. They find it anywhere and they don’t really care what origin it is.  After a feast they will wait till you least expect it then sneak up to you…. Snuggle in….and BAM!! They stick their big sloopy tongue right in your mouth.

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Maybe if I feel them flowers they won’t smell so bad…?

Unfortunately, I chose to visit during lambing time which is down in the doggy calendar for its seasonal, always grizzly, delicacies … suffice to say I’m only going to wear a turtle neck pulled up to my ears for the rest of my visit.

All I can say is at least they eat local.