Something significant has happened. Yes, there’s been another month gap between posts, but in that month I have laid my hands on a shiny new smartphone which has the significant advantage over its predecessor of actually taking nice photos which aren’t blurry, indistinct, or tinged blue like a world permanently bathed in flashing police lights. So this means I barely have to write anything at all, to be honest. I can just stick on the sideshow and leave you to it.
(Except, yes, you’ve probably all seen these already on Facebook, in significantly higher quality than I use here. Originally, leaving my blog in this early 2000s design timewarp was simply laziness, but as the years go by I’m increasingly going to pretend it’s a conscious artistic design, in homage to the era of its creation. So squint, dammit, squint at the photos and just be grateful they’re not blue anymore.)
But let’s start by going back to the first weekend of August. It was hot: hot enough to pass that critical tipping point where cider becomes my default drink over beer. Oliver and Abi were back from their American adventures, so we had an afternoon of incomprehensibly-complex board games and Shakespearian quizzes. The next day there was a family BBQ, and some nice photos:
And then just a few short hours later, we gathered on the sofa to learn that
Malcolm Tucker Peter Capaldi is the next Doctor. Gasping ensued. Really? Like, really? Because this is going to be awesome. And especially awesome because over the next few months I have the weighty task of introducing Doctor Who to a newbie, which is a frightening responsibility to have, so it’s nice to have a new era to go into together. But which episodes to show? Which episodes to hide? How early do you get to Blink? (These are not rhetorical questions. Tell me. I’m scared I’ll mess it up and end up with somebody who thinks the Doctor is half-human.)
Gosh, that was a lot of rambling and we haven’t even got to the surprise Berlin trip yet. But first!
It has been a good month: chilling out in beer gardens with Josh and Anna, celebrating our flat’s anniversary, stealing Michele’s friend Nour and somehow persuading him to go see Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (our mutual reaction was haha that’s hilarious and haha Hollywood couldn’t pull that comedy off aren’t-we-smug) and journeying up to the top of the Shard on a last-minute invitation from a mother burdened with a spare ticket. Two notes about this, actually:
1. I could hear a somewhat-sarky Diamond Geezer in my head the whole trip, especially when we got to the gift shop. Which of course just means that he’s become a ‘valuable brand’ for ‘curated experiences’, and someone should stick his endorsement on trendy ‘alternative’ tours of the view from two-storey office blocks and slightly rising hills. But face it: the Shard is tall, and you can see a lot from a tall building, and that’s that.
2. My mum’s instant reaction on emerging into the upper viewing deck was to stare down for a few seconds before saying “you do realise we’re looking at South London this side?” and move away. Hah.
It’s only been a year, and now I was back on a work trip. Which itself was interesting and rewarding, but then a bunch of us stayed for the weekend too, and then it was really time to enjoy ourselves. Berghain isn’t a place I would ever naturally go in my life, and indeed I only lasted until a pitifully early 3am before crashing out, but it was so worth going for the out-of-this-world atmosphere, with shadowy dark corners and spooky steps like something from a video game ‘abandoned factory’ level but filled with cool Germans and techno.
We ate the best food in the nicest places. We drank crazy German beer where the price is determined by a live stock exchange of beer purchases but it doesn’t really matter because it’s Berlin, not London, so beer is always cheap. We properly chilled out. We did the touristy sight-seeing bits. And I confronted an American tourist on his lack of enthusiasm for Ampelmann. (“But why is it a thing?” “What do you mean? It’s Ampelmann! It’s the glorious marriage of Soviet-era graphic design and gift shops!” He looked unconvinced, but he was in an Ampelmann gift shop, so I think I was well within my rights.) The bottom line is: Berlin is now about #3 on my ‘list of potential cities to flee to if London is flooded or attacked particularly badly by zombies’.
And bringing us right up to date with ‘stuff that happened just now’, I spent this Bank Holiday weekend with Cat and Matt in Norfolk in the lovely family home of the Hurleys. (Her mum could seriously run a B&B off the back of those breakfasts ) Kings
Lyn Lynn is not Berlin, but it was actually no less lovely, as we celebrated Cat’s birthday in advance with her homeland friends (sorry guys, we’ve stolen her forever), rambled through the countryside (“this field has a horse in it!”) and unearthed some incredible VHS tapes of Cat’s pantomime past.
(Traumatically, these village performances always culminated in a spirited rendition of the national anthem, which is more than enough to mark the very marked difference between growing up in Norfolk and growing up in Willesden Green.)
This is getting on for a treatise, so I won’t carry on through the very many other lovely evenings this month with Matt and Caroline, with Simon and Ellie, or with my mum dining out in Angel. I will say a massive congrats to Katie for her scary A-Level results, and how excited I am getting for Canada…
Oh, what, Canada? That’s right guys: 2013 is shaping up to be a lot more travel-heavy than I had planned
I went on holiday
I started out not far from home at all – in the Corrib, in fact.
Then headed down south, just a little…
…before winding up in Gloucester, where the pace of life was a little slower…
…and my two lovely hosts made me feel very welcome indeed.
Then on to Wales!
Which was half luscious spring
and half snowy winter, just slightly higher up the mountains.
And finally, after some years, returned to good old Cofton Hackett
and had plenty of drinks in the Oak Tree, catching up.
(Also this month! Abbi hosted a wonderful dinner party, Sophie popped up briefly in London, Caroline and Louise threw the most well-catered flat warming party I’ve ever seen and Mother Majesty aced another gig.)
Feeling nicely relaxed and chilled after a week in Tuscany with Grace, Oliver and Abi, so before Real Life intrudes again on Monday I thought I’d do an old-fashioned “here look I went on holiday look at me!” photo post:
The final ingredient to any holiday, not pictured above, is obviously reading. I’ve been back in a good reading groove of late, and this holiday managed Zadie Smith’s new novel NW, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Life Of Pi. A word about this last one. I vaguely remember when everyone was reading it, roughly a decade ago, so was slightly disappointed all these years later to discover that the world had not in fact been gripped by a mathematical treatise. Disappointment hardened into disdain for the first section, set in India, which is a tedious ode to religion interspersed by the kind of ‘wonderings’ worthy of Elizabeth Gilbert. Thankfully, the bulk of the novel is a great yarn, including plenty of tense moments, a genuinely creepy episode on an island and a deft ending, so after a while I was actually a happy and captivated reader again.
But, Yann Martel, please: you don’t understand agnosticism. Really, really, not at all. And if people were so blown away by the philosophy of Life Of Pi, then it strikes me that they don’t either. Which is a shame, is all.
I was totally expecting to love Berlin as a city, so thankfully I did! We crammed in a lot of touristy sights and museums, fell in love with Ampelmann, ate a healthy amount of currywurst and schnitzel, had a slight overdose of Nazis\Communist history (there comes a point…) and also went out to Potsdam for the day on trains with absurdly upbeat jingles. (Seriously, watch it: why is it so happy?)[Quietly adds Berlin to my list of potential cities to flee to if London is flooded or attacked particularly badly by zombies.]
So I’m back from the States Now, thankfully, I’m not going to re-create my month on this blog because (a) it would probably take another month just to write it up and (b) I’ve already written it all in my little paper journal. (Yeah, about as retro as sending postcards!) But just to set the scene: I flew first to Boston to stay with Sophie, and then to San Diego in California for a journey up the Californian coast which also included Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Santa Rosa. And it was amazing, of course.
I have oodles of photos, which will shortly be finding their way onto Facebook for those so inclined. But I thought it would be nice to start with ten for this blog. They (mostly) don’t include photos of people, essentially because I was so well looked after by so many wonderful friends and relatives that they wouldn’t all fit into just ten photos! For the record, though, a massive thank you to: Sophie, Perry, David, Ginger, Alex, Geoffrey, Jackie, Jeff, Lori, Crystal, Daryl, Ermila, Glynis, Laura, Giampaolo, Niccolo, Tessa, Matteo, Robert, Robin, Tom, Emily, Daniel, Jamie, Sharon, Jonah, Staci, Sophia and Rachel. And anyone else I’ve missed out. And Virgin, because flying with them is quantitatively better than with anyone else. (Sorry, this is all a little bit Academy Awards, but I guess I’m just high on a drug called dominicself.co.uk…)