Tag Archives: family

A Crouch End supper club with the fam.

I love eating out, but I also love gathering family and friends around me and eating in (neither of which have I done enough of in recent years). Last Saturday I managed to do both at the same time! How did I do that I hear you ask…by attending a supper club, the Crouch End Secret Supper Club, the perfect marriage of eating out whilst feeling as though you’re eating in. And, I had the loveliest evening.

I’d been to this particular supper club once before when S & S took me as a birthday treat and this time the tables were turned as I was taking them out to celebrate their birthdays.

As S & S live between us and the supper club we agreed that we’d just call for them on our way there which was really just an excuse to sneak a peek at their ridiculously cute new puppy, DJ, he’s so funny and really quite odd looking. He seemed to be interested in everything and everyone and looked more like a wind-up toy than a dog (especially when doing his backward walking – his favourite). DJ 1

DJ the pomeranian – he’s at least half fluff!

DJ 2

He’s nine weeks old here – so sweet.

Now, I have to say (yes J I know it’s pointless but, humans will be humans) that the Crouch End Secret Supper Club will, almost certainly, give you house envy and, if you’re female, it may also give you woman envy because Catherine, the co-host, comes across as a bit of a superwoman, to say the least…the very least (sorry, that’s a Grease reference). The last time I went, Catherine had just flown in the day before from a work trip to China and she still had the energy to join her twenty five guests at the end of the evening for a chat and a glass of wine – I’d have been tucked up, fast asleep, under a duvet (or curled up in a ball in the kitchen, pulling my hair out).

When S & S and I went last time, we didn’t talk to the other diners much and, though I’d really enjoyed myself, I didn’t feel as though I’d had a proper supper club experience. But, I knew that I wanted to go back again. So, it’d seem a little odd, to go again but in an even bigger group, right? Wrong. I think because there were so many of us (six), it meant that those of us that wanted to mingle could do so easily without feeling like we were ignoring the people that we’d come with and we’d chosen a good night to attend because everyone seemed in a talkative and friendly mood.

CESS fellow diners

Two of our fellow diners, they’d heard about the supper club because Catherine and Robert had opened their home up a few weeks back as part of the Crouch End Open Studios (they have lots of wonderful paintings on show in the ‘dining’ room).

We were met at the door by a smiling Catherine who ushered us through to the dining room which was configured in a different way to my last visit and somehow looked more restaurant like.

CESS tables

It was a lovely, warm evening and the dining room doors had been completely opened so that the room merged with the garden. Several diners had already arrived by the time we got there and most were taking advantage of the balmy weather, perching on the decked patio or venturing further afield into the stepped garden. We were brought our welcome cocktail, a golden mojito, and settled ourselves in to the outdoor kitchen area beyond the decking to await A’s arrival.

 

CESS Sunlight golden mojito

Mmm mmm mmm, enjoying my golden cocktail bathed in golden sunlight. Mwah ha.

CESS crab rangoons

Crab rangoons (not sure if these are rangoons as they’re shaped differently to those of the other guests) made especially for me. Thank you so much to the supper club for the enormous effort put in to accommodate my unfortunate (allium) allergy.

 

 

CESS chatting

 

CESS a table

A, D, S & S and J, all behaving beautifully, seated and ready to chow down.

The supper club provides still and sparkling water but if you’re wanting to drink anything else you best bring it with you. We took a very modest three bottles of wine and a classy carton of orange juice!

CESS risotto

First course ‘proper’ Broad bean and asparagus risotto which was beautifully cooked and flavoursome.

Unfortunately my phone camera can’t really cope with low lighting and, as the evening progressed and the light outside faded, candles were lit and the lighting inside was kept at ambient. My photo taking gave up the ghost and I just got on with enjoying the food, the lovely service, the atmosphere and the company.

CESS sorbet

This was meant to be a gooseberry palate cleanser but because of a dearth of gooseberries became a strawberry and basil sorbet instead.

The sorbet was one of the highlights of the meal for me, just because it was so intensely flavoured but still had such a freshness and lightness about it. The risotto was also high on my list of favourites and a special mention must also go to the chicken which was wonderfully tender and the chocolate fondant which was just oozing with gooey chocolatey richness.

One of the downsides of the crappy past few weeks that I’ve had, of which I’ve not talked much about, is that I’m finding that I get very very tired, very easily so, by the time we had eaten the main course I was flagging slightly. I don’t disagree with the decision they took to show England’s first World Cup game, but I do think that it changed the atmosphere -making it different, not worse – and I struggled to keep my head in the evening from then on.

CESS Catherine at work

Catherine at work in the kitchen which is at the front of the house and overlooks the dining room. Genuis.

Of course the food is good, but what really strikes me about this supper club is the scale of it, from the number of guests (it’s a pretty slick operation – there’s no way that I could serve perfectly cooked chicken to twenty plus people at the same time and, more to the point, on time!) to the number of courses. And the effort that Catherine and Robert go to to make the evening enjoyable and a success is incredible. I think that every savoury dish they served had garlic or onions in it and I was served the same menu as everybody else except that my courses had been cooked absolutely from scratch (meaning that where a bought (organic, of course) stock may have been used, a stock was made for me to ensure that there were no traces of anything at all that might react badly with me) now THAT is service. I felt a bit bad because I can actually eat cooked onions with no ill effect (I did say this in my email) and I can eat the things that I can’t eat (if you see what I mean), I just have to eat them in very small quantities and they will still make me feel ill. But, I suppose, it’s easier (on the mind) to err on the side of caution with these things.

There was a big group of people there, also celebrating a birthday, and Catherine had gone to the trouble of baking a cake for the birthday girl on top of everything else.

I’m absolutely sure that I’ll return to this supper club, as they concentrate on cooking seasonally maybe I’ll pay them a visit once per season. I’d highly recommend going, it’s a proper night out, don’t expect to be home before midnight because you’ll still be eating cheese (with home baked bread), sipping on coffee with a little homemade sweet or biscuit on the side, or slurping wine and chewing the cud with an interesting mix of people then. I, for one, am back to thinking about my (doubt it’ll ever happen) very own supper club.

Don’t eat much all day, don’t wear anything too fitted and book yourself a taxi – that’s my advice.

CESS Lollipop head golden mojito

Final bonus photo. This had me cracking up, I look like a ‘lollipop’ head (or as though my head has been stuck on) which is kind of funny when you consider the shape and size of my body.

Music to blog to….

 

 

 

Grease is the word. A night at the Drive-In at Ally Pally

Last Friday, my sister and I and our children, A, J and Z all went to the Drive-In at Alexandra Palace to see Grease. We were all so ridiculously excited about going, so much so that Z caught an early train back from Paris, C arranged with work to finish early and A and J (who were both only coming home for a week) made sure to be back in London. And, luckily for us, it did not disappoint.

Drive In box office 2

The box office – Rush

When I heard that the Rooftop Film Club was setting up a Drive-In at Ally Pally (which is just up the road from me), I knew that I was going to have to go and, when I saw that they were showing Grease, well, euh (that may be the first Grease-ism of many – I’ll try to resist), it was a no brainer. Both of these are a part of my childhood, I don’t really remember the Drive-In in Antigua (it must have closed by the time I was six) but I have a sense of it and I first saw, and fell in love with, Grease when we still lived there (we left when I was seven). I remember people being astonished by Sandy’s skintight trousers, wondering how in the hell she got them on and whether in fact they were painted on. Ah…happy days.

Drive In projector

Popcorn anyone? Though there were rollerskating hosts and hostesses serving snacks (including popcorn) this here is a Popcorn Projector and NOT a popcorn vending machine.

J and I had actually been to the Drive-In the week before to see Rush (what a good film, still not a fan of Formula 1 but I’m perhaps a bit less of a hater than I was) and on that night there’d been a balls up with the catering (think the organisers were somewhat let down) so I decided that I’d best do a little catering of my own and what better than a Twinkie. After a quick search on Google, I found a recipe that didn’t need lots of ingredients I’d never even heard of (let alone got) and A and I set to making us some twinkies. I kept the recipe exactly the same for the Twinkies but substituted golden syrup for the corn syrup in the filling and WOW, it was delicious.

Making the twinkie moulds

Making the Twinkie moulds.

Twinkie batter

A bubbly and light, vanilla infused batter.

Twinkies for baking Twinkies baked

Before and After

Twinkie eating

Scrumdidlyumptious

Unfortunately for us we’d started on the Twinkies a little late and we JUST couldn’t get them filled in time so had to head off without them! Doh. And, because I was baking up to the last possible moment, I didn’t have time to dress up appropriately (was planning a Rizzo get-up) and ended up having to go dressed in an indoors only outfit. Good job all we had to do was sit in our car then!

Pink Ladies

Absolutely loved seeing these Pink Ladies (though the effort they’d put in did make me wish that I’d planned my time a bit better!).

The Drive-In was in one of the out of the way car parks at Ally Pally and by 8pm (showtime) it was packed full of cars and I swear, all of those cars were full of people as excited as we were. The atmosphere was fantastic. The catering issues had been dealt with, out with the wine and beer (yes really!?) and in with the hotdogs, burgers and jerk chicken??…not quite Drive-In traditional but good, nonetheless.

Buying food is a serious business

The serious business of buying burgers.

Cheerleader Sandy

Urgh…this is one of my favourite scenes – if I’m talking about Grease (which I don’t do THAT often), a re-enactment of this scene always comes in to it replete with excessively salivary lips.

We talked all the way through the film, except for where we were saying the lines or singing along. There is something really great about how relaxed you feel in the (dis)comfort of your own car – you experience the film in a completely different way. I mean…Would you pull this crap with a normal cinema (Grease-ism)? Borrowed from my daughter’s Instagram, this is what it was like for almost all of the film.

Ally Pally Drive In 🐈🐈🐈

A post shared by Alexandra Sandford Smith (@alexsandfordsmith) on

As the final track of the film ‘We Go Together’ played out, the Pink Ladies and several other members of the audience (revellers) could be seen dancing around towards the front of the car park and C and I got out of the car to do a little shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom of our own. Cars flashed their lights and honked their horns and as we all drove out, I got the feeling we were all losing control (Grease-ism) coz the power the Drive-In was supplying…was ELECTRIFYING. WOW. Hmmm…I think I oughta stop here.

What a great night out. The Drive-In experience worked for me for both a film that I’d not seen before and one that I knew like the back of my hand. If you can get a ticket, definitely go (it’s at Brent Cross for a few more days) while you have the chance.

Getting ready to rumble

Obligatory red cups – models’ own (as are the funny pouts).

The Brent Cross Drive-In is on until the 27th April 2014 and it’s looks as though they’re going out with a corker…….GREASE!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking with Jamie Oliver…mwah ha, not quite but the next best alternative – an evening out at Recipease..

A and her boyfriend, L, seemed for a while to be obsessed with Jamie Oliver – watching all his shows and cooking from his books (though neither of them is much of a recipe follower). They’re both great cooks and actually, I think L has influenced my cooking – I’m much more confident with using LOTS of aromatics now, so, where I may once have used a measly half bunch of coriander in something (for example), I’m not scared now to throw in a proper handful (and my hands are pretty big!). So, when thinking about what to give L for Christmas I thought why not take him to Recipease Notting Hill (which had reminded me, the first time I went there, of the Teaching Kitchen idea in Jamie’s American Food Revolution (which I absolutely loved) and where A, L and I had previously been for coffee) for a cookery class. In truth, I suspected that the classes might be a bit easy for L but, where food is concerned, he’s always up for trying things out so…why not.

I said that I’d go along too if L wanted (mwah ha ha – oh dear, my dastardly plot is out in the open) and between us we settled upon a class and a date. We picked Vietnamese street food because from the description it seemed as though we would cover a number of cooking methods and I certainly have never cooked Vietnamese food before.

Fast forward a few weeks to the night before the lesson and I thought I’d best text L to make sure he was remembering about the class – good job too as he was actually in Liverpool with A and had forgotten all about it! Tut.

I arrived first and was directed to my class which was at the back of the shop, on the ground floor, and once I’d collected my apron, deposited my personal effects in a locker and washed my hands, I sat down with my group stressing about whether L would arrive in time to join us (his train was delayed and he thought he would be a little late). We were all sat around a long high (breakfast bar height) table at the very back of the room, and most of the group were drinking beer or wine (I stuck to water – that is until the bad influence that is L arrived) a bottle or glass of which was included in the cost of the class.

L arrived just after our teacher, Chef (actually his name was Simon), had assembled us around one of the work stations to demonstrate the first dish, Scrumptious Vietnamese pork balls (the scrumptious is my addition to the recipe title as I think it gives it a real Jamie Oliver twang), that we would be cooking but before that, he went through a few housekeeping notes and, I must say, he was rather entertaining, not least because he bore more than a passing resemblance, voice and face, to Michael McIntyre.

Recipease pans at the ready

Ingredients and pans at the ready.

Chef sounded out our cooking levels and skills by asking lots of questions about ingredients and cooking methods and I think, pitched the class accordingly. I learnt something about chillies, namely, it is the white pith that the seeds are attached to and NOT the actual seeds that provides the majority of heat in a chilli. I was also surprised by the meat used, it was more of a very fine dice than a mince and I think that’s why, in part at least, the finished balls were spectacular – so moist, sweet and juicy.

Pork ball mixture

Pork ball mixture with beer in the background.

Once the dish had been demoed, we were assigned a cooking station and, in pairs, we all proceeded to get chopping, mixing and slow frying (to allow a rich and deep caramelisation to occur). L and I also proceeded to drink several more bottles of very tasty Camden Town Brewery, Camden Hells lager and Camden Pale Ale.

L crushing garlic

L smashing up some garlic (for his dipping sauce, though – I did get onioned and garlicked, was my fault), beer in the foreground.

While the pork balls were cooking, the other dishes, summer rolls and dipping sauce were demonstrated by Chef and recreated by us and the prep for the beef pho (the stock for which Chef had prepared earlier) was done.

Pork balls

Oh my, wish I were cooking some of those RIGHT NOW.

Roll roll roll

A pile of julienned veg and a wrapper, waiting to be turned into a summer roll, with my (sans garlic) dipping sauce in the background.

Once the pork balls were cooked, everything was plated up, Chef poured hot pho stock over our bowls of prepared veg and raw beef (the hot stock being enough to ‘cook’ the tender slices) and we all sat down with a drink to enjoy the meal we’d just prepared. There weren’t enough spaces for all of us around the long table so L and I sloped off to a counter in the window, by the entrance, which had been set up for us and chatted and watched the world go by as we ate.

L plating up

Not entirely sure what L is doing here, but I like an action shot.

I’m a Jamie Oliver fan and I’ll not hear a word said against him…mwah ha, having said that – I do think that there should be space for everyone to sit and eat together if that’s the general vibe, we felt a bit like scolded little school children, banished to the naughty step (which, in L’s case would have been appropriate – though I don’t think Chef noticed him throwing our lime repeatedly in the air, higher and higher each time, while waiting for the pork balls to cook, he did, however, notice L’s rather brilliant knife skills).

Recipease final dishes

The view from the naughty step ain’t too shabby.

All in all, I’d say if you’re already a pretty competent and confident cook these classes probably won’t teach you much, they are only two or three hours long afterall and I don’t think that’s their aim, (though there’s nothing to stop you asking lots of questions) but for a fun outing and an interesting way of cooking lunch/supper I would highly recommend them. And, if you’re not great at cooking, if you’re friendlier with a microwave than a sauce/griddle/frying pan etc…get thee down there! You will learn something, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll get a delicious meal to boot.

After the course you’re emailed the recipes for the dishes that were demoed on the night and, as I write this, I realise that I learnt something else – don’t be afraid (in other words stop being so lazy) of a long list of ingredients, what appears like an essay on the page is often little more than a bit of organisation and a lot of chop chop chopping. I mean, when I was doing the cooking, I didn’t think I was working with lots of ingredients, it all felt very simple but when I now look at the recipes I know that ingredient lists that long would make me turn the page, swiftly.

A Crouch End weekend for my dad and me.

Last weekend saw me heading into Crouch End on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s visit was a last minute decision as, when checking out the Sunday timings for the NEW CINEMA IN CROUCH END, ArtHouse Crouch End (@arthousen8), I noticed that they had a matinée showing on the Saturday and I just love the idea of sloping off to the cinema of an afternoon (though I’ve not much done it). The film in question was ‘Lift to the scaffold‘, a beautiful and stylish French film noir-esque offering, directed by Louis Malle and starring (a stupidly stunningly sensuous and pouty) Jeanne Moureau. With an incredible soundtrack by Miles Davis, it was a perfect choice for an afternoon of self indulgence.

I can’t express how excited I am to have a cinema in Crouch End and it’s a delight, there’s a café area serving the best lattes I’ve had in an age as well as tasty looking (can hardly say tasty as I’ve not tasted them!) cakes with a licensed bar that doubles as the box office. Simply decorated and elegant, this is a place I can see myself returning to time and time again. There will be a live venue too (which may or may not double up as the second screen). Gosh I love this place.

ArtHouse N8 exterior

The view from the road.

ArtHouse bar and box office ArtHouse coffee and cake

Box office, coffee shop and bar, all rolled into one.

ArtHouse natas

The obligatory (for North London, at least) natas….and thank goodness for that. Actually, come to think of it I have tried one as I bought one from the ArtHouse deli across the road.

ArtHouse tulip floor and step

A single tulip on my table. Though it’s the flooring that I was attracted to.

ArtHouse cafe seating

A sneak little peak of things to come..

And the cinema itself?…. Love love LOVE it. It is pretty tiny and it feels as though you’re at a really cute private screening but…it’s definitely a cinema. Good sound, good picture. Some seats are better than others space wise (it’s allocated seating) and, if I were you I’d stay away from the outer/wall seats.

On Sunday I took my dad out for lunch and chose Earl Haig Hall, known as The Social, as I’ve been meaning to go for a while and, as my dad doesn’t get out and about that much, I think that it’s nice for us to go to new places when we go out for lunch (also, it’s so close to the ArtHouse).

Earl Haig Hall exterior

As the board says…ALL WELCOME

The Hall is part of the Antic group of pubs but it really does feel more like a social club, they’ve kept lots of the original fixtures and fittings –  and their website says they’re open to ideas for events/community projects. When we were there there was a great mix of people and ages, it felt really cool (as in, sweet and relaxed and friendly) and my dad felt completely comfortable. There was only one ale on but my dad said it was a good’un and, the lunch was absolutely GORGEOUS. I had the belly of pork and my dad had the beef. I must say, I’m loving the way all roasts come with a yorkshire pudding these days – so there’s no need for me to bother myself with roast beef (not my favourite).

Daddy pulling his surprised look

Daddy pulling his ‘quizzical’ face. Too cute.

Earl Haig roast belly pork

Yum yum yum for my tum. Lots of perfectly cooked vegetables and a good balance of sweet and salty. Will definitely be eating there again.

Earl Haig stage

Can totes see me enjoying an evening of ‘local’ (dunno what that is, just tripped off the tongue) theatre whilst supping a pint or two.

Earl Haig pinball

 

We rounded off our afternoon out with my second trip to the ArtHouse to FINALLY see 12 Years a Slave which was as harrowing, astonishing and brilliant as I was expecting it to be. Everything about this film is stunning and, if you haven’t seen it yet – yeh right!- I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Towards the end, I thought that someone was chuckling away but it transpired that they were howling and crying so much they were snorting. I don’t think that there was a dry eye there.

All things considered, Crouch End delivered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ooo Ooo Ooo…brilliant birthday bresents (yes, I know it’s presents but that would have ruined my alliteration).

Oh…was it your birthday recently Susie? Mwah ha. Yes, yes, I know, enough of the birthday already.

Well…not quite enough as I want to show you what I got from D and the children because I’m SUPER happy with their choices:

Christmas and birthday books

As They Were was a Christmas present in place of Maiden Voyage (which had been mentioned in the stupendously brilliant, exciting and inspirational ‘Love with a Chance of Drowning‘) but then D managed to get hold of a copy in time for my birthday. I can’t wait to get started on it but I’ve to finish As They Were first.

Knife close up Birthday knives

Mmmm…I’ve used the larger of these knives so far, to dice onions and carrots and it cut like a dream, it was like slicing through butter.

Wüsthof is a German company that was founded in 1814, their knives are amongst the best (apparently) European (ie non Japanese) made knives available.

Birthday book

A and J gave me this brilliant tome. I’ve wanted this for a while so was really pleased to receive it as a gift from my lovely children and I’m looking forward to making lots of recipes from it. I’m already amazed to read that the dressing for the celeriac salad I love so much and always buy when I’m in France has so few ingredients. I make my own version and I’m very happy with it but it’s interesting to learn how it should be made.

They also cooked an exceptionally scrumptious Sunday lunch for us and my mum and sister of roast beef, perfect yorkshires, caramelised roast carrots and shallots, roast potatoes (bien sur), and more. YUM. Thank you.

Deep electric blue shoe

These shoes, from Evans, are a deep electric blue – not my usual style at all but part of my mission (see previous post) to start looking like I’ve made a modicum of an effort.  I love the heel and, though I’ve only worn them round the house so far, they seem quite comfy.

And a little bonus, given to me yesterday as I sat at my desk (not strictly speaking a birthday present, in fact, I’m not really sure why I had the honour) by a couple of the researchers in my lab. I think they were feeling sorry for me because my knee was playing up and I was hobbling about. How utterly sweet and touching though. They NEARLY made me cry, I had to not talk and stay hidden in my room for a little while.

Birthday flowers

I absolutely love gerberas.

Not my usual kind of weekend..

Well, actually, Saturday started in an all too familiar (not TOO familiar mind) way….hung-over. But, this was no ordinary hangover – this was hell on earth – I felt as though my body was in panic mode, desperately trying to survive. And, I am barely exaggerating! Needless to say, the plan for the day flew out the window which was a shame because as usual I had lots of interesting stuff lined up.

I was meant to be going to the Being A Man festival at the Southbank Centre with my sister. Essentially a three day festival of a pretty interesting collection of men gathered together to talk about what it means to be a man today and Saturday’s theme was Society so, talks about being a dad, being gay, being black, sex and promiscuity, being a professional and…being a bloke (that’s the only one that I managed to make). I had been interested in the Being a bloke session but, as it was the last session of the day and I had the exciting prospect of a blogger meet up, I was planning on cutting loose and ending my day after Men and Violence. Ah well. My sister made it to more of the sessions and, whilst we both enjoyed the talk and thought that there were some good points, she said it was probably the least interesting talk that she had attended. I really enjoyed a couple of the panellists though, Wayne Hemingway – who was very articulate, thoughtful and funny, and Billy Bragg who is as persuasive in speech as he is in song.

BAM Sat 1 Feb 2014

That’s Wayne Hemingway on the left (as we look at the image) and Billy Bragg next to him.

The talk started late, and then there was this whole warm-up exercise that I thought was a mistake, (it felt to me as though, rather than loosening everybody up, it divided an already open and engaged audience in half – those that got it, and those that didn’t) and then the talk ran on a bit…the upshot of which was, I decided that there was no way that I would make the meet-up which (as any of you observant readers will know I would have loved to attend as it was in aid of the fifth birthday of the Rachel Phipps blog – she who appears in my current obsessions links). Instead I strolled around to the Real Food Market, just behind the Royal Festival Hall, tasting a bite here and another there, settling on a small pot of Koshari which was just what I needed to bring me back to life enough to skulk home, tail between my legs, for an early night.

Arsenal water                                  Arsenal water…a taste of things to come. Love it.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a couple of tickets (thanks T) to watch the mighty Arsenal take on Crystal Palace (except that they weren’t that mighty even though they brought in the needed win to take them back to the top of the league) and so I found myself on Sunday, heading down the Hornsey Road with C in the direction of the Emirates stadium. We had to stop off for a little pre-match refreshment of course (actually we just wanted to feel like we were a part of the Gooner family so The Tollington Arms was the obvious choice as it’s always a sea of red and white on match days).

Arsenal C and S on their first triip to Arsenal

Setting off for our first match…..too excited for words.

We had great seats but it really was a dull game, especially the first half where the most impressive thing about it was the Crystal Palace fans (to be fair, they were actually quite impressive) who sounded as though they must have a set of drums, a conductor, have been in rehearsals for a month and did not let up for the entirety of the game. The Arsenal fans, on the other hand, barely let out a peep – until the first goal, courtesy of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, when they roared (something they managed to sustain for a couple of minutes at least) and it wasn’t that long before Chamberlain provided them with another goal to celebrate.

Arsenal First half snoozefest 2 Arsenal First half snoozefest 1 Arsenal Beautiful stadium

Impossible to tell from this but, Crystal Palace’s strip was really very stylish! Oddly so, I thought.

Arsenal C wrapping up after first half Arsenal S just before second half

I had a great time. C wants to go again, she wants her very own season ticket but in truth, I need the help of the commentators to really follow what’s going on and, as the Arsenal fans aren’t the most hmmm…vocal, I’m probably better off just watching it on the telly!

Arsenal C posing infront of Emirates Stadium

C looking poised and stylish after the game.

Arsenal action shot of S

S doing an action shot..

We ended our trip where it began, at the Tollington and, after getting our drinks, stood outside watching the autograph hunting fans mobbing the players’ cars as they went by.

2014-02-02 18.46.56 2014-02-02 18.47.05Podolski was actually really sweet and apparently, the week before, had got out of his car to pose for a photo with a fan who was in a wheelchair. I guess it’s annoying for the traffic behind but honestly, it’s a couple of minutes of delay.

Ah…it was all good fun, so friendly and, quite sweet. Once we were pretty sure that we’d missed Arsène (boo hoo) and our fingers were about to drop off, we went back inside…

2014-02-02 18.22.28 Arsenal brr brr brr in The Tollington

This is…Plymouth

So, here’s another late but nonetheless deserving post….

Towards the end of November last year, D and I were off to the 50th birthday party of a friend who lives in South Devon not that far from Plymouth. We thought, as we were going to be in the area, that it would be a pity to miss out on an opportunity to see J. So, we each booked the Friday off work, packed ourselves and our party finery into the car and sped off for the weekend.

J on boat

This is J, taking the boat back from the docks because we’re all knackered. According to him, you can walk EVERYWHERE in Plymouth. Heh.

(Please note, this is upside down photo placement, this photo was in fact taken at the end of the trip when we were all KNACKERED from too much walking).

J came and met us at our hotel, The Grosvenor Plymouth (which we’d chosen almost at random but turned out to be rather fine, nicely decorated and comfortable, and brilliantly situated), and it felt like such a treat to be just slobbing around, hanging out with him. J had said that he wanted to have a go at knitting a square that could be added to a blanket that I’m making (actually, and rather pathetically, I’m making a blanket for the sole purpose of its receiving the one square that J manages to produce) and after handing over the wool and needles that I’d taken for him to use, our minds turned to food.

Of course, me being me, I had to spend ages pouring over blogs and reviews whilst D and J were reduced to gnawing their arms (not really but I think that they were starting to get a little fed-up). We settled on Rock Salt Cafe & Brasserie and boy did we make a good decision. The sad thing about this good decision is that I can’t give you any details, I don’t remember what any of us ordered, or what we drank (I didn’t take any photos and I didn’t take any notes – damn me!). What I do remember is that the three of us were bowled over by everything about this charming place, from the decor, service and vibe through to the food and drink. I do remember that everything was cooked to perfection and seasoned just so and that, based on our mains we simply couldn’t resist having pudding. We’d really only gone out for a bite of supper, nothing too fancy, and had ending up eating a full three course (still not too fancy) feast. Anyway, we waddled back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to J, agreeing to rendezvous sometime mid-morning for coffee and cake.

After a great night’s sleep and a good breakfast, D and I checked out and then went for a stroll as J was, apparently, not yet to be roused. We headed towards the Hoe which was just at the end of our road and – full disclaimer, it was a gloriously sunny day – we could not believe what we saw. If you’d have told me that we were on the French Riviera (or on the coast in Italy) I’d not have questioned it.

This is Plymouth.

S full shot

A rare full length shot, only because I normally take my photos and my arm’s not quite long enough to get more than my head and shoulders!

Looking down on The Coffee Shack

I thought this coffee shop looked brilliant and really wanted to head down there straight away.

View from the Hoe Smeaton Tower Smeaton’s Tower  – sadly we couldn’t go up it as there was a Civil Ceremony taking place.

Looking down on the lido Looking towards the Terrace

The beach

Looking down onto the beach. There were a few people swimming and I wished that I’d had my costume too.

Looking down on the Terrace

Looking down onto The Terrace Bar, where J joined us for drink, and the stunning 1930s Tinside Lido.

S with Terrace coffeeS with Terrace coffee 2S with Terrace coffee 3

After sitting for a while, enjoying the sunshine and the views we decided we had better get on with the day and after a couple more hours exploring and failing to find anything we particularly wanted to eat for lunch, we said a sorry goodbye to J and continued on our Devon road trip.

Man with puppet

We passed this guy, blasting out music and filming a puppet.

Plymouth  Big Wheel

What’s left of the Plymouth Big Wheel. It’s been sold to somewhere in France, so says J.

Plymouth Hoe Memorial

Plymouth Hoe Memorial

All those plaques with rows upon rows upon rows upon rows of tiny names, each belonging to someone, a real person, who fought and died. This type of memorial always makes me cry – it’s something about the way that the names are displayed which brings home to me the scale of death in the World Wars.