Friday, 27 June 2008

Knitting Update

It's been absolutely ages since I mentioned any knitting on here, which is shameful given "knitting" is in big orange letters at the top of the page. But never fear, I have actually been knitting, just, er, not telling you about it. Sorry.

Let's have a round-up of my recent projects then!

Giant Green Clapotis - FO

Before I went to Ecuador I announced that the Giant Green Clapotis was finished - in fact this was done mere hours before we were due to get on the plane, and I was desperate to have it done so I could take it with me. I must say it was one of the most useful things I've ever benefited from on a flight, apart from, possibly, Bernoulli's principle. Warm, soft and cuddly (thanks to the thick, snuggly Noro Cash Iroha), huge enough to swathe myself in, and with convenient breathing holes so I could wrap it around my whole head to block out the light and sleep. Wonderful! It's now getting a lot of use at work as I like to be warm whereas my colleagues prefer the air conditioning.

I didn't block it, and I'm glad I didn't as I like its organic qualities. However its first destination was the rainforest, which is hot and humid, ie optimum blocking conditions. I'm pretty sure it relaxed just enough in these conditions to even out the stitches perfectly without going all flat.

The photo session happened in Mindo, where the light was better than in the rainforest. I'm not usually a fan of knitted items randomly and unnaturally abandoned in trees, as I've ranted about before, but I did take a few in desperation before I found the chair above, and I quite like how it looks like a big hanging sheet of moss in this photo.

I want to do another Clap, or two even, since this one makes me so happy and since there are so many yarns out there which would suit it so well. I am trying to stop myself since this one took me nearly a year, FFS, and I would quite like to do something else for a while.

Yaaaaaarrrn! Socks - FO

So called because they are made from BFL sock yarn by Yarn Pirate. The colourway is "Calamity" and is in fact a Yarn Pirate Booty Club exclusive. I'm not in said Club (or any others actually) but I fell in love with the colourway when I saw some on Ravelry, and tracked down someone willing to sell me their skein on there. Hooray for Ravelry enabling!

I loved the colour because it's a bright clear purple and green on white. The green is two distinct tones, leaf and emerald, and the purple fades in and out of lilac through to amethyst. Stunning. I was thrilled with the colour but less so with the yarn base, as it's very loosely spun and plied, and hence very splitty, with the occasional slub. I would certainly buy Yarn Pirate again but I have heard that the merino base is much better, although the sheen on the BFL is very pretty.

Technical details: exactly the same as my second socks. Exactly. I like this method. Again 60 stitches on 2.75mm needles but this time on Brittany Birches, which do not cope well at my fiendishly tight tension. I snapped two during these so it's lucky that they (via those lovely men at IKnit) replace them. Back to bamboo next time, as at least that flexes rather than cracking.

The socks, by the way, are pictured hanging out on the equator line in Quito. A sock in each hemisphere! They were almost finished bar one cuff when we set out on our way to Ecuador, and I dealt with that on the flight there. I then didn't cast off until the very end of the holiday as I couldn't take my 4mm metal needle for the loose cast off on the plane. Given I actually started them on my flight to New York in March, they are not only very well travelled but two months from start to finish, although two weeks of that was in limbo. Must knit faster.

Preppy Socks - WIP

On that same flight to Quito I moved straight on to another pair of socks, this time in a heavier DK weight yarn from Snarky Design, in a pink-grey-black colourway called "Prep School Dropout". This is amazingly springy, tightly plied stuff, which is just so much fun to work with.

Because these are on thicker yarn I decided to go for a chunkier feel, probably to wear under my regular winter wardrobe of knee-high boots (no, I'm not doing knee-high socks, it would kill me). I am using 3mm needles and a 2x2 rib for the top of the foot, carrying that on up the leg all the way round. I started off on 52 stitches but have increased to 56 at the heel so that it is over 30 rather than 26, as I think the fit will be better with a roomier heel. I didn't reduce back down again for the leg. I probably shouldn't have chosen a rib for this yarn though, as it's making the striping look a bit messy. I much prefer the plain sole, where the colours can show themselves off prettily without clashing with the rib. I'm not one for frogging so ribbed they will stay.

I've finished one sock but haven't managed to make myself do the toe to start off its pair, as that's the one part I need quiet and attention for. I should just do it as the rest of the sock can then motor along whilst I'm on the tube. Will try to knuckle down to it this weekend, although the recent hot weather has made thick socks less of a priority.

"Preppy" is not a word I would ever use, but does remind me of my brother's obsession with Saved By The Bell when he was young. I think it was meant to be some kind of insult, given the sporty one kept sneering it at one of the non-sporty ones?

Feather & Fan Silk Scarf - WIP

I don't know why but I've really been hankering after lace projects over the last few weeks. Before starting a shawl I thought I'd better do something fairly easy, so I decided to give feather and fan a go. Simple enough, you would think, but it took me many, many goes to get it right at the start, punctuated by much swearing. However once I nailed the first repeat it was plain sailing from thereon. I've nearly finished, and might even get the last of it done tonight.

I'd lusted after Skein Queen's "Kimono" aran silk for ages and this seemed like a good excuse, so I snapped up two skeins in a glowing, almost semi-solid orange-pink (I'm on such an orange trip as well as the lace thing) called "Phoenix", which I wound and cast on as soon as it arrived. I adore knitting this, and am dying to use some in another colour for a Clap (see?) when I can afford a custom order that big. It is ultimately luxurious, though I get covered in pink fluff as I knit. Nothing wrong with pink fluff as a look, though.

That's it! I am aiming to be more real-time going forwards, I promise.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Man with the Golden Voice

I've been fortunate enough over the last couple of months to see or do a few of the things that I thought I never would. Most of them were wildlife-based, and fulfilled in Ecuador: the parrot lick, the hoatzin, albatrosses dancing (and I will post photos soon now the business of the last few months seems to be over). Seeing those wildlife highlights does only, however, require being in the right place at the right time, ie ultimately easy enough with time and money. Other things are rather harder, depending on chance or the whims of others. One thing I honestly never thought I'd see was the incomparable Leonard Cohen live. On Friday night, I did. On Saturday morning, I shook hands with the man himself and told him that I never thought I'd see the day...

Mr Cohen (somehow "Leonard" seems disrespectful) hadn't toured before 2008 for 15 years. Given the man is 73 years old, I and many others assumed he never would again. Then, unfortunately for him and horribly fortunately for us, whilst he was on a five-year Zen Buddhist retreat, his ex-manager and ex-lover, Kelley Lynch, stole almost his entire pension fund and the future rights to and royalties from his back catalogue, apparently leaving him with only about $150,000 to his name and no chance of getting the money back. After admitting this had "put a dent in his mood", he's on tour again, essentially to raise some money. Whilst I suppose we'd all rather our favourite artists were doing it for the love, I'm happy enough with this, although of course I feel terribly sorry for him.  But as the man himself said, on stage this time, "The cheerfulness kept breaking through."

A word on how I feel about Leonard Cohen: he is god to me. There are many bands I like an awful lot, some to a quite absurd degree (R.E.M., for instance, as you may have noticed). There are musicians who I admire and respect greatly (Neil Young, Patti Smith and a few more), and loads of others I enjoy hugely. There is only one who I utterly idolise. I'm not sure what it is - certainly the solemnity (I won't say depression, because I don't find them so) of his lyrics helps, but I think it's the poetry, the execution of his lyrics and novels, the sheer romance of the bleak, bohemian lifestyle in Montreal or New York, struggling with poverty, religion and beautiful women. I find his work desperately sexy. That's without even going into the wonder of that voice... Oh, and when I first met the boyfriend, one of the first albums I introduced him to was Cohen Live. We spent many of our first nights together listening to that. So a combination of adoration and memories serves to elevate him above all others for me.

When the tour was announced, I was over the moon, then immediately disappointed to see that the London gig was in the O2 Arena. I've said before how much I hate it. I even said that I wouldn't even go there if Leonard Cohen toured, ha! The alternative was Manchester Opera House, with an amazingly small 1,900 capacity (rather different to the O2) but we'd never get tickets to that... but fortune smiled on us and with some fast online work by my delegate(!) we secured them for the Friday night show. So with an early departure from work and a tense train ride north, praying for no delays, we made it to the Opera House in time for the very early 7.30pm sharp start. He's an old man, he needs to get to bed on time.

It was an awesome concert, truly - three hours, mainly the classics (such as Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy, So Long Marianne), lots from The Future (Anthem, The Future, Democracy) and I'm Your Man (most of it actually, but very excitingly First We Take Manhattan, Tower of Song and Ain't No Cure For Love). His voice is getting much lower but still utterly wonderful. Spoken word renditions of some of his lyrics/poems were spine chilling.  His backing band were all brilliant too - I'm sure for them it's the gig of a lifetime. Here are some photos (no bag checks!):

(No idea what was going on with the colours in that last one, something to do with me fiddling with the white balance, but it looks cool.)

Some reviews from the papers.

Whilst that was all amazing, and I'd have been absolutely content with my lot at that point, as my first paragraph suggests it just got so much better. I was with my parents for this, and they always pick swanky hotels, so we were staying in the Manchester Malmaison. I knew R.E.M. had stayed in this one previously but thought nothing more of it as a location for rock stars. We went to the hotel bar after the show and realised that a couple of the people in there were some of his backing musicians, so we were quite excited, thinking that he was probably staying there too, but we didn't see him and thought he would probably mainly stay in his suite. At breakfast on Saturday morning again there were a few of the band around but not him. Then... as we left the restaurant to go and check out, he was standing in the lobby all on his own as his entourage were checking out!

I was far too terrified to do anything, but my dad, a man of decisiveness who gets what he wants, decreed that we were going to talk to him and pretty much dragged me over. "Leonard!" he started. My mother and I both agree we'd have gone with "Mr Cohen", but he didn't seem to mind at all. We just told him how much we'd enjoyed the concert and thanked him for touring after all this time. We shook hands, and he thanked us for coming and said it really meant a lot to him. He was ever so nice, and seemed quite pleased even, or at least he's good at politely faking it. His voice really is that fabulous in person. I didn't want to ruin it by asking for a photo or an autograph, which I felt would have been intrusive. After a few more words we left him alone to carry on checking out. Then by the time we'd collected our luggage and were leaving the hotel (after I'd gone off for a little bit of screaming and jumping up and down in private of course), he was standing outside about to get into a car, and he smiled and gave us a little wave! In all seriousness, this was probably one of the defining moments of my life. I've met my idol and he was actually not a disappointment!

I tell you what though, I fluffed my chance to run off with him. You may or may not have heard of the concept of a "Celebrity Shag List", whereby you and your partner agree that in the unlikely event of meeting one of a named shortlist of famous people, and them agreeing to it, you are allowed a free pass to go off and have sex with said celebrity with no recriminations from your other half, because of course it's never going to happen. Mr Cohen, is, of course, on mine, and I didn't even proposition him! Opportunity wasted there, but I think the boyfriend is quite relieved.

So thank you, Mr Cohen, for touring at all, for a truly wonderful concert, and for being so gentlemanly to your trembling fans. You are a legend.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Wedding Belles

This weekend we went to the wedding of T & A, friends of the boyfriend from university, and sometime checkers of the authenticity of the dinosaur fossil we have hanging in our lounge, what with them being paleontologists. The wedding was up in the countryside in Shropshire, with the ceremony at Ludlow Castle and the reception at the groom's parents' farm. The farm even provided free accommodation with loads of us, including the happy couple, camping out in the wildflower meadow - a gorgeous setting although murder on the hayfever front. It was an absolutely wonderful day, the couple were beautiful and overwhelmingly in love, the ceremony was touching, the party was well stocked with food and booze, and what better way to end the day than by staggering back by torchlight, over a bridge across a little brook and to your waiting tent in a field?

I have loads of photos, of course, but this is my favourite of the enchanting couple, with the bride attempting to net a small child with her veil:


She spent a remarkable amount of time larking about with us, for which we felt most honoured, given how in-demand the bride and groom are:


Here's our little group, all dolled up, though the boys have a pathological inability pose without gurning, but then we were all saying "halloumi":


Not that the boyfriend and I are really that much better...


Just call us Mr and Mrs Gormless.

I do love my hat. I shall say it again, I do wish there were more opportunities to wear hats.


Just as well I love it as we took the smaller of our tents with us, and I had to sleep with it perched on top of my feet all night to stop it getting squished.

Of course once we got back home, much discussion ensued regarding the things we liked (most of it), the things we were less keen on (not much), what we want to steal (ha ha) and what we'll do differently. Diagrams were drawn. New spreadsheets were created of timings (there are already a few spreadsheets knocking about already). Our main area of discussion on Sunday evening revolved around the music for the ceremony. The boyfriend had an inspired idea for the walk in, which I'm sure we'll stick with (it's a surprise so don't ask), but the walk out is proving more difficult. We have essentially discovered that we only like music that has some combination of the following, non-wedding-y attributes: minor key, depressing lyrics, frankly abusive lyrics, general mournfulness, startling intros that will cause our guests to have heart attacks, unsuitable tempos, loud guitars, overdone electronica, pseudo-orgasmic yelping, suicidal lyrics, and lyrics about relationship breakups and/or paranoia. Oh, and that doesn't mention any concept of religion at all, not even as a passing reference, for example the use of the word "heaven", even once. This is a requirement of the UK civil marriage ceremony, that no religious connotations be included at all. Fair enough I suppose, and it has saved millions of wedding guests in this country from the horror of Angels by Robbie Williams, which doubtless would have been the mainstream choice without that rule (it is for funerals, I've read). We couldn't find a single suitable song by any of our absolute favourite artists, not R.E.M., Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Pink Floyd or Fleetwood Mac, though I begged for a few of them either for comedy value or in the way of hope over experience. We now think we have a good contender: something happy by a band we both really like and have even seen together on that album's tour, although we have plenty of time to come to hate it. Now have to wait for the venue open day in October when we can see if the distances to walk match the timings of the songs. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, huge congratulations to T & A, and enjoy your monsoon honeymoon in India!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Scanning Tunneling Telectroscopy

My "scene" (that is, you lot and half a dozen other people) has been buzzing recently about a new installation down at London Bridge. I therefore made a special trip this evening to view the wonder of the modern age that is... the Telectroscope!

If one were to believe the backstory, the Telectroscope is a vast tunnel running under the Atlantic Ocean, housing an optical viewing device by which residents of London and New York can commune with each other. The project was commenced around the 1890's, but was abandoned, forgotten, and only recently resurrected and completed. The full, tragic story is here. To add weight to the veracity of their claims, a couple of weeks ago a large piece of tunnel-boring equipment was found breaching the ground near City Hall. Finally, the Telectroscope itself was installed and finished.

Really it's all done by a broadband internet connection (hence its sponsorship by Tiscali, about whom I shall say nothing but that I'll never ever use them for telephonic services again, regardless of any goodwill generated by this), but stylistically it's very cool. Check out the details of the brasswork:

And even the ticket is in keeping:

What's not to like about steampunk? I'm sure it's already apparent that I love Victoriana in clothing - as I've said before I adore corsets, crinolines and hats, although sadly I don't get to wear them half as much as I'd like. I also passionately love science. The combination of Victorian dress-up, engineering and outrageous inventors and inventions... well, it could have been made for me, couldn't it?

That and the fact that you do genuinely get to wave and gurn like a loony at similarly over-excited participants over by the Brooklyn Bridge. This is what you look into at the business end:

My fellow Londoners and I were bouncing up and down, pointing and exclaiming, "Oh my god!" Our American co-Telectroscopers were evidently doing exactly the same (there's no sound but I could lipread and only the accents differed). Here are some of the people way down the other end of the tube. I'm in their photos so I'm sure they don't mind being in mine!

Time for some physics geekery: the meaning of the title! Scanning tunneling microscopy, whilst not something I've actually ever done, although I did get examined on it during my Masters year, is a fiendishly clever technique, for which the Nobel Prize was won in 1986. It allows viewing of surfaces at the atomic level. It's amazing. Tunneling itself, by which the microscope works, is one of my favourite concepts in science (do you want a list?) and one of the coolest things in quantum physics. Think of it as the ability to walk through walls, or for water to flow uphill. Electrons are marvellous little beasties and can do these things by means of their wave-like nature. Why does this matter to us? Well, it's the reason why food in a freezer still has a shelf-life, for a start. Those electrons will keep on moving, albeit very slowly, no matter how cold you get them, even down to absolute zero (where by definition there's no vibration). So very slowly, chemical bonds shift and reactions happen, and very very slowly, food still spoils. The concept is also part of the basis of such things as flash memory, which makes our little hard drives, iPods and digital cameras possible. Words cannot express how much I love quantum mechanics.

In other news, and sort of tying in with me hardly ever getting the chance to dress up, today I have been mostly bemoaning the fact that I do not have enough hours in the day to do all the cool stuff that there is to do in this wonderful life. More specifically, these are the things that I do not have time to do over the next couple of weeks, in no particular order:
So hopefully that will give some inspiration to anyone looking for something to do, although I will be practically chartreuse with envy.

If only I could say I was cash-rich, time-poor, but sadly the first part of that isn't actually true... I shall console myself with the fact that it's all because I'm doing other stuff instead. Unless, electron-like, I can walk through the walls of bank vaults, and then be in two places at once?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Oop North

As they say in Yorkshire, lass. Pass me a flat cap and look after me whippet for a moment, because this weekend Lotta and I visited La Señorita Gloria in Harrogate. Neither of us are what you'd call experts in the north of England, being poncy southerners, but we braved it on the basis that Harrogate is terribly posh and much like an enclave of the south up in the scariness. This attitude of mine generally provokes hilarity from northerners, to whom I point out that, for me growing up, London was a two hour drive north, and anything beyond the Watford Gap was unimaginable. They still laugh.

Of course our main aim was to see Gloria, but then what to three lovely ladies do to pleasantly pass the time in each other's company? We headed into the centre of Harrogate, ostensibly to shop, but mainly to visit the famous "Bettys Café Tea Rooms", or Bettys for short, which does not seem to have an apostrophe. Bettys is quite the destination for an afternoon cream tea - in fact during the one and only time I've been to Harrogate before, the queue was so long we gave up. This time we were not to be deterred. Even queueing was easy enough on the eye, with the windows replete with breads and cakes:

And the inside crammed with jars of tea and coffee:

What could we do but indulge ourselves, once we were seated? It was all terribly genteel. Even the pots of tea and water, when they arrived, were perfectly aligned by the waitress as she placed them on our table.

We were indeed very satisfied ladies as we sipped our tea, and then demolished our scones with very unladylike gusto and discussions over whether jam or cream goes on first (I say cream). I must say though, as a true southerner, the clotted cream wasn't as good as the stuff we have, because we invented it down in the West Country, but bless them for trying.  I'll grant that they have considerable heritage on the tea itself.

What else about Harrogate, apart from the tea and cakes? (You mean, there's more to life than tea and cakes?) I liked the statues of people atop the Victoria shopping centre, although a couple looked rather suicidal. Do you think anybody would notice if a real person got up there to jump?

I also liked how all the benches had snakes for legs. I'm sure there's a good historical reason for this, but I don't know it, so I'd be grateful for enlightenment.

For a touch of modernity, we also found a great little Japanese shop, selling the kind of brightly-coloured, eccentric foodstuffs that we all love. I bought the chocolate-strawberry apollos (little moon landers), and the chocolate-filled koalas (kyuuto!).

Gloria also treated me to a belated Christmas present of a Good Fortune lucky owl, a fukurou. He's very cute and will bring me lots of luck. He was also beautifully gift wrapped in orange paper with a dragonfly attached.

Full, shopped out and hoarse from late-night sessions on Rock Band and SingStar, we sadly left Gloria to head back to London. Come and visit us soon sweetie, we love you!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Da Bomb

I found this most amusing on my commute to work on Friday:

I love the fact that in London, history occasionally rears its head and reminds us that, no matter how shiny and modern we might think we are, this is a city with two millennia of heritage (one day soon I'll visit here).  I love knowing that we walk the same streets as the Romans, and mediaeval peasants, and cheeky chappie Cockney sparrows who survived the Blitz.  I also love the deadpan way in which London Underground manages to respond to such situations.  On the other hand, they might just be pleased to have an excuse that's not actually their fault, for once...

Thursday, 5 June 2008


It was my irregular book club night tonight, celebrated with much wine and a remarkably unified set of opinions over our latest book (Death At Intervals by José Saramago). The consensus seemed to be that the idea was great, but that we weren't keen on the execution - we prefer some punctuation, and possibly some actual characters. But the man has a Nobel Prize for Literature so who are we to judge?

Still feeling literary afterwards, I spent a pleasant, slightly tipsy hour wandering around Borders on Oxford Street, refreshing my list of books to read in the near future, and enjoying the fact that they were playing Leonard Cohen (two weeks to the concert!). Books are such things of joy to me. I'm sure I'd go without food sooner than give up buying books (but please don't test me on that). My family are the same - growing up, even if pocket money was being withheld for whatever reason, I could always persuade my parents to buy me a book, because every parent wants their child to enjoy reading. Their problem was more how to punish me, as being sent to my room, my place of books, was no hardship to me - I was there anyway most of the time. Forcing me to go outside and climb a tree would have been far worse...

I was somewhat sad to visit the craft section and see the following:

Books everywhere, piled haphazardly on shelves, and all over the floor in such disarray. Why? I can't believe that the shop assistants have particular disregard for this section. I can only imagine that overenthusiastic crafters get so book-happy that they spend hours poring over them and don't put them back properly. So my dears, if you're reading this, please put them back nicely, OK?

Incidentally, not that this happened tonight, and not that I need it these days, but Borders on Oxford Street is one of the prime pulling locations in central London in my opinion. The number of times I've been approached by nice young men in there whilst I've been browsing... Far more often than in any other location. This seems to be particularly prevalent if I'm sat reading in the science section - clearly geeky men (I love geeks, I am one) need to establish that their quarry can actually read long words before they move in. Oh, and Borders have fairly alright, free loos, which is always a plus. If only I could live in a bookshop... I'd probably be even more happy imprisoned in one than in a yarn shop, which is saying something.

Last night our Wednesday night knitting group had an outing to the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, to where Tingles has "run away to join the theatre", as I keep putting it. You go, girl! The play was The Pilgrimage of the Heart, featuring a somewhat startling incest-based storyline. Ting, aka Tina, was fantastic - sweetie you absolutely made me forget that we normally see you grinning at us over a set of DPNs! I'll say again for future nights: break a leg!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Tube booze chaos!

The new Mayor of London, our Boris, has just banned drinking alcohol on the Underground. Quite right too, I say. It might help with all the scary, lager-swilling football fans getting drunk and lairy on the Tube every time there's a match or concert on round my way (every day at the moment it seems), although I'm not sure the tramps with their cans of cider will be unduly worried by the "softly softly" approach that TfL are planning on taking. I was astonished to discover that boozing on the Tube wasn't actually illegal already - I always thought it was, and in my clubbing days back at uni we always used to top up little bottles of Diet Coke with vodka to get lashed for cheap on the way out, thinking we'd get arrested if seen drinking the hard stuff openly. It turns out we could have been as blatant as we liked! Oh well, it all added to the frisson of being a teenager, I suppose.

So, alcohol on the Tube became illegal at as of 1 June 2008. How did Londoners react? By organising an almighty booze-up on the Circle Line on the evening of 31 May, starting at 9pm, going westbound from Liverpool Street. This was never going to end well.

We were on our way to a proper party in a proper bar at about 9.10pm on Saturday night, with plans to change at King's Cross. It didn't occur to us that we'd collide with the Tube party; I even vaguely wondered where all those people were going with wine bottles. Then we got to the Circle Line platform:

Most of those people there had alcohol - you can see the standard off-licence blue carrier bags, and the ever-so-classy Bacardi Breezer (yuk). A whole load of people in fright wigs arrived just after that, as the party train was pulling in. We weren't participating, but we had to get where we were going, and it all seemed pretty good humoured. Not much going on in our carriage but we could hear the noises from further down the train where the party was really getting started, with cheering every time we arrived at a station, and a "time" bell being rung in harmony with the door opening and closing beeps. At Great Portland Street, we saw these girls realising with horror that they were on the wrong platform, and trying to leg it over to the train:

When we disembarked at Baker Street, we could see for ourselves what was happening in the party carriages:

Standing room only for the partygoers, girls all dressed up, men in fancy dress, and plenty of alcohol. What I didn't manage to get photos of were the balloons, disco balls, the sound system in one carriage, the full TV camera and boom microphone in another... It all looked like quite a laugh.

Unfortunately these things never seem to stay pleasant, and apparently it all got rather rowdy not much later on, with fights, vomiting and ripping up of train upholstery. Stations were closed, except Liverpool Street where the best they could do was to corral the party on the main concourse all night. Glad we didn't stick around. We had to walk for ages on our way back home because, surprise surprise, the station we needed was shut because of the trouble. I still have the blisters.  Bloody high heels.

What else have I been up to? Well, most excitingly, I popped down south to check out a wedding venue, and it was gorgeous, and it's now booked for next September! As a consequence of which, I've been hitting the gym in the evenings, as I only have 14 months to look good enough for all the photos. At least that's fairly likely to be enough to augment my paltry willpower when it comes to such things. Must not eat chocolate... except when bought for me as a celebratory pressie by the lovely Lotta and Anna, with whom I spent a lovely Tuesday evening sipping champagne cocktails in the Moët Bar in Selfridges. They also bought me a stunning orchid from Paula Pryke at Liberty, and I'm working really hard to ensure that this is the one plant that I manage to keep alive. Thank you again my dears! But no more chocolate, please, I beg you...