#453 theoldmortuary ponders

Time to consider the fuel it takes to drive our city walk. There are some guidelines that need to be adhered to and a good breakfast is the foundation on which a good days walking is built on. We have scaled the delights of high-end and high-up, The Shard, breakfasts. After extensive research we have narrowed the key ingredient down to bubble and squeak. A working- class use of left-over ingredients, cabbage and potato. Just the stuff to get our legs going and our jaws constantly scattering. Our next stop to take in fluids was a Korean tea shop. We got there around lunchtime but our aim was only to have some unusual infusions and that was exactly what we found.

Our final destination took us across Central North London to Marylebone and the home of a simple no menu restaurant that serves only one dish. Steak frites with a famous green sauce. Queuing is the only way to get a table the perfect combination of French and British culture.

And that concludes the fuel blog from our city walking. East to West in 20,000 steps, many conversations and three delicious stops. The 3 websites follow-

P.S I wrote this just after I did my first gym induction since the pandemic. Turns out those machines have got cleverer. Not only do they count the amount of calories you have burned off. Now your walks or runs on a treadmill take you on lifelike augmented reality tour. This morning I walked 10,000 steps through Paris streets without so much of a sniff of a croissant or a glorious cup of hot black coffee. Where is the pleasure in that!

#452 theoldmortuary ponders

City walks in January need plenty of stop offs. The last time I was in this glorious Tom Dixon interiors shop was in February 2020. I was feeling as ill as it is possible to feel and still be more or less functioning. In reality I very probably had Covid and could barely appreciate the joy of his designs or the fragrances of his beautiful candles. Three years have passed and my personal score of Covid( before testing) Novid ( – test, all the symptoms) Covid (+test minimal symptoms) My pleasure in the visual remains high, but sadly the pleasures of fragrances have all but left me.

The barge, glimpsed through the window says it all. So much has been lost by so many over those three years my sense of smell is a small loss to bare. A January afternoon in the Tom Dixon store is such a feast for the eyes I barely missed the fragrances.

#451 theoldmortuary ponders

Our day started, as it went on, doing entirely normal things in unusual locations. A visit to our favourite bakery seemed very standard until I decided to use the loo. Only to discover that it was in the strong room, the bakery was in a former bank.

Unfortunately the name of the Strong Room could also be considered a judgement of my years of expertise in enjoying bakery products. No such judgement on the next stop.

Be-oom a Korean tea shop whose outdoor space was very unexpected.

I was particularly thrilled by the nearby what3words location.

After the tea, this silver author wished for somewhere cosy to relax after my rose petal infusion. There was no relaxation, though, in a day of long city walks. The last of the normal things in unusual spaces was a book shop on a canal.

And just to bring this unusual blog to a close is a clever door stop.

#392 theoldmortuary ponders

©Gails Bakery

Yesterday was my birthday. Under normal circumstances I don’t think birthdays always get a mention in my ponderings. This one gets a mention because it was quite unbirthday-like. After a week in London providing love and support to a new grandaughter, and attending the blogging course, my birthday was the day to travel home.

Not that the birthday was unmarked. Sunday evening there was a fabulous curry for supper boosted by savoury Bengali snacks from Brick Lane and a Connie the Caterpillar Cake.

Our drive to Devon was made birthday-special by visiting a Gails Bakery on our pre-drive dog walk. Gail’s is a large, London, chain of bakeries. Their cheese straws are my personal gold standard. Because it was my birthday I chose two baked goods to accompany me to Devon and a flat white, oat milk coffee. I picked, as my luxury item a brioche bun. Unknown to me it was not just any bun but a Christmas Bun!

Despite being a fairly loyal customer , I had never encountered a Christmas Bun before. Why do these things happen just as I leave London? To save me from myself would be the best answer.

The revelatory moment occurred as I drove on the A3 almost certainly beyond the last outpost of the Gails sphere of influence. Out into the world of Surrey and beyond.

No other incident in my life has made me inspired to make brioche buns before. Googling gives me the other ingredient I will need to learn to make – frangipane.

If I manage to crack this project there is one thing certain. These buns will not just be for Christmas.

The other end of the journey also had a surprise. We stopped on the edge of Dartmoor to collect something, the unusually warm November had allowed Lichen to thrive on Gabions that had been used instead of Traditional dry stone walling. I am normally very sniffy about such poor practice but who wouldn’t be charmed by these quilt- like patches of lichen.

Now this may seem an odd pairing for a blog but anyone who regularly drives long distances knows just how hard it is to get enough green into your diet on driving days. The same goes for blogs.

#389 theoldmortuary ponders

All of life is a journey, either of the mind or the body. My today journey was to a destination I have known and loved for many years. The Townhouse, Fournier Street, Spitalfields. For many years it was a coffee/ tea destination and then by the greatest of coincidences The Gentle Author started running blogging courses there.

Today my journey was pretty simple. 19 stops on the District Line. My reason to travel was another blogging course. How I originally found my way to Fournier Street has been forgotten, it almost certainly started with curiosity about my Huguenot forbears and my love of the Spitalfields area when I was a student. The Huguenots were the first refugees to arrive in Britain and 1 in 6 of us are descended from them.

My parents also often took me to the market in Wentworth Street, not so much to shop but to experience the hustle and bustle of a proper London Market. 5-year old I would have stared up at this actual London underground sign in Aldgate Station in wonder and excitement.

I am no less in awe of Spitalfields than I ever was, no less excited either. Tomorrow I get to do it all again.

#340 theoldmortuary ponders

Todays blog has , once again, written itself. The plan was to have a bit of a natter about the architecture and history of The Great Hall, Westminster. But something more organic has grabbed my attention.

#QueueForTheQueen

Overnight the British love for an orderly queue has reached its zenith. Could there be anything more gloriously, gorgeously, British than a queue with a life of its own.

The Queue has its own website, live tracker and constant streamed wencam.

I woke up for a wee at a moment of unfortunate activity.

A guard took a tumble during his duty.

Twitter, as can be the case, is the place for witty comments. Visual jokes that will only improve over the five days of The Queue’s life.

I am not an innocent in this queueing malarky, only two weeks ago I chose a restaurant in Chicago “Because it had a queue” I don’t know why those words came out of my mouth or even where the thought came from. I was not wrong though, our lunch was excellent.

It is not an exaggeration to say that people have travelled from the four corners of the earth to join #QueueForTheQueen. Just like Glastonbury there are wrist bands, portable toilets, and no sleep.

But here, perched on the edge of my bed there is definitely sleep. Five more days of the greatest queue on earth, An unexpected pleasure!

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/14/queen-coffin-queues-30-hours-london?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

#328 theoldmortuary ponders

Leaving Chicago, and then, suddenly, not leaving Chicago. The book planned for my return flight, titled ‘The Paris Wife’starts off in Chicago. Set in the first chapters, somewhat unexpectedly, on the exact streets that my over used feet walked their daily 20,000 steps last week. I bought the book in Toronto because it promised to take me to Jazz Age Paris. 20 pages in and I am in Chicago and in Chicago. Two weeks ago the streets would have just been abstract names but now I have a real feeling for the geography of the early plot. This is the most delightful surprise and, as so often happens will take this blog somewhere entirely different to the planned destination.

The funny thing is that the book was chosen because it is a book written about Ernest Hemingway and his time in Paris, two subjects I am familiar and comfortable with. Already I am hoping the characters will make a visit to the Drake Hotel, a beautiful survivor from the Jazz Age.

And just like that the characters have moved on to Paris and I am in an Uber to Wimbledon.

No trips for either of us to The Drake.

#227 theoldmortuary ponders

Welcome to the Thursday that thinks it is Saturday. The Queen has been on the throne for seventy years, so in Britain we have a four day weekend with today, Thursday,being the first of the days off.

The Queen as Ziggy Stardust, both great British institutions.

My head has been incapable of adjusting to a Thursday Bank Holiday.I can’t help but be puzzled that this is not Saturday. Our usually quiet week day walk was enlivened by huge numbers of tourists. The dogs took their time reading all the pee mails that the unknown holidaying dogs have left, almost making us late for our usual, free, two hour parking spot. A big celebration in London with us not visiting is unheard of, but we never considered going this time. We no longer have our own Welsh Guardsman performing for Her Majesty.

Not because we have lost him, but because he has retired his Bearskin. To be fair his instrument of choice made him one of the men in the back row so we have spent many events of great national significance waiting for a glimpse of his bottom.

We often got front row seats, again really very lucky. On one occasion the seats were so special we had a slightly awkward sartorial moment. We had taken some South African friends, with us, who were dressed amazingly, I suppose we were dressed well enough for normal but as it turned out our tickets were anything but normal. London, on these occasions, is also far from normal so when our tickets, being checked at pinch points, sent us nearer and nearer to Downing Street we were not particularly perturbed. Alarm bells were slightly raised by the fashion and style of all the other people who were being gently directed with us. If we were dressed to an OK standard the others in the queue clearly had a different dress code. Men in Morning Dress ( three piece suits with tails) women in fabulous outfits with high heels and hats of the most fabulous sort. What sealed the deal for the strangeness of our ticket allocation, was the last part of our journey which was through the gardens of Number 10 Downing Street. The home and Office of the British Prime minister. We had randomly been given tickets on the same stand as International Diplomats. We diplomatically stuck close to our South African friends, who looked more dressed for the  occasion than we did. We took our places in the stand and had fabulous views. No one noticed us at all,  apart from those moments when our friends caught a glimpse of a black Welsh Guards musician and ululated with joy. Having done it once, those diplomats and their families, who could ululate, joined in on on every subsequent occasion. I suspect that is not the normal behaviour from the Diplomats stand, but it made the days events joyful and memorable.

Thursday as the new Saturday, a Platinum Jubilee is unlikely ever to happen again. My confusion is unlikely to be repeated. Probably just as well!

#3 theoldmortuary ponders

Long before I started a blog, I had a normal job in London. One of the places I would seek refuge, after a nights work, was The Townhouse, Spitalfields. Home made cake and coffee embellished by the Townhouse itself always slowed the busy pace of London down to something more manageable. The link below describes the Townhouse far more comprehensively than I ever could.

Town House Spitalfields

There was serendipity at work when one of my favourite blog writers, The Gentle Author offered blog writing courses based at The Townhouse.

Returning this weekend for a second writing course with The Gentle Author was a treat, both visual and experiential. In between learning and enjoying wonderful food I hopped around like an overactive magpie gathering photographic trinkets for future blog use. It helped that bright autumnal sunshine barged its way into the corners and recesses of the early Georgian building, making everything a little more magical.

Taking magic to a different place was the bathroom we used this weekend.

And the kitchen where refreshments were served.

https://www.townhousespitalfields.com/

The link above takes you to the Townhouse website. I”m sure this will not be the last blog I write about this gorgeous building.

#2 theoldmortuary ponders

I could be in complete denial that autumn is in full glory this morning. The trees outside my room are uniformly green. Yesterday was bright and sunny and the street markets I explored were still selling whisps of dresses in bright sunshine. It is all a bit of trickery, the trees rustle with squirrels busy stockpiling seeds and acorns and market traders need to sell summer stock to empty their warehouses for heavier winter clothes.

Likewise, in denial, this beautiful assemblage of coloured- glass, domestic objects and a tea strainer, twinkle in bright sunlight against a robustly healthy Banana tree.

More trickery of course. The banana tree lives in a micro climate. Surrounded on all sides by tall, Georgian town houses that protect it from harsh easterly winds that whip the east of England and blow up the Thames estuary, burning delicate foliage at first touch.

Attending a writing course is a lot like trickery and microclimates. The conclave ( secret meeting) format relaxes absolute strangers into shared and deeper mental intimacy; providing a fertile literary microclimate to explore and evolve writing styles and to sort out the dry areas in our creativity.

The beauty of attending face to face meetings again is that we can be experimental and risky away from our domestic environment. The sights, sounds and smells around Spitalfields are so stimulating, the architecture spans centuries and the people are from every corner of the world. Every course member walks into the writing room with some new common layers of sensation sprinkled on to their existing diverse life experiences. Advanced blog writing was a blast this weekend, thanks to everyone who shared it. You know who you are.