Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Ghost Signs of London

I recently accompanied a student group at work on a 'Ghost Signs' walking tour. Having initially thought this was a tour of signs of paranormal activity in London, I was quite relieved when my colleague explained that ghost signs are actually the remnants of what's left from painted advertising on the side of buildings. Phew!!

Our tour took place in Stoke Newington, an area of London I'd never visited (why would I?). Our tour guide Sam, met us at the station, and after a little introduction and the health & safety talk - remember to look where you're going not just up at the sides of buildings, keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times... We all failed our first test: to find the sign visible from the spot where we stood. Pointing behind the group (not really fair!) Sam showed what we had failed to see.

As the tour got going, we all started getting better and better at spotting the signs. We stopped by each one, and Sam got us to try and decipher what was written. This was difficult, not just because they had been faded by time and sunlight, but because most of the walls had been used more than once and so there was often two or more different products being advertised.

At one point as we were all staring up at a sign publicising the various uses of a horse and cart, a local man came over to listen to the tour, and was amazed, having live on the street for 15 years that he'd never noticed the sign before! Crazy!

I really enjoyed this tour, Sam was a fantastic guide; knowledgeable, easy to follow and a strong public speaker. I was able to ask him, at the end, about a sign I used to see every time I walked to netball when I lived in Russell Square. Amazingly, he knew exactly the sign I meant and emailed me after with some more information about it. I'd whole-heartedly recommend this tour, and I have added his other tours to my list of things I'd like to do in London!

Info on the tours can be found here. I didn't pay for this tour, because I went with work, but I definitely would spend my own money on this!

I only took a few photos, and those only with my phone as I forgot to take my camera along!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Wanderings Lately :: December 2015

Well, the last two weeks of December were full! It was fabulous. I spent time with family and friends in Essex, celebrated the new year with friends in London and led a couple of student trips with work. It's not the middle of January, and I'm still behind on my fortnightly updates. So, as I predicted, this needs to become a monthly thing. I still want to commit to writing it, but its quite clear that I can't keep to 2 weeks. So here's my last couple of weeks of 2015 and the first week of 2016!


I was in charge of desserts on Christmas day, and made my own Christmas pudding again this year, as I did a couple of year ago. Thankfully it turned out ok again which was a relief! I also challenged myself by making this recipe. I wasn't sure how easy it would be, what it was going to turn out like and then how I was going to transport it. I needn't have worried though because it all came together on the day! I used two of my mum's glass pyrex bowls to make the cylindrical sponge and took it on the train in a bigger glass bowl covered with foil.

I amended the recipe slightly, and I couldn't find dried cranberries - very strange during the Christmas period! So I used cherries instead. Everyone seemed happy with it on the day so I don't think that was too big of a change!

Here are some photos of the whole thing coming together!


Christmas was full of food - as I thought it would be. Everything was so good! After missing my train on Christmas Eve - by about 2 minutes! I made it for the evening and spent the next 3 days in Oxford with my family. On Boxing Day we had an immense Seafood Paella, with the biggest prawns I've seen since Korea. The days following Christmas I spend relaxing in Essex and seeing more family and friends.

New Year's Eve

I was up early on NYE because it was a workday for me and I was meeting a group of students arriving at Heathrow. The day eneded up pretty busy as we were constantly on the move; checking in to the hostel, introducing the local area, giving an orientation and ending the afternoon in the British Museum for Afternoon Tea. Although it was busy, that's not a bad way to spend your day at work! After I finished, and despite a whatsapp meltdown on New Year's Eve - which yes, I did google to find was affecting most of Western Europe, North American and Asia - my friends all managed to make it to my house and we spent the evening together. We had good food, good wine and good times playing games! We watched the London fireworks at midnight and generally had a low-key but lovely night together seeing in 2016.

The season of giving

As with every year, I was completely spoilt with presents from my family. The majority of which were books - I've made my way through 2 od these already and have promised not to buy ANY new books until I have read all of the ones already on my 'to read' pile. 

I actually gave myself a gift this Christmas - taking a leaf of out my friends Claire and Nicola's books! I signed up for a book club (more books! >.<). The first one arrive a couple of days into January and I can't wait to get started on it. I signed up to the Willoughby Bookclub, and after giving them an idea of previous books I've read, general genres I enjoy and my favourite authors they will send me a bespoke book each month (for 3 months). The first one, arriving wrapped all nicely and with a bookmark and little 'this belongs to' notelet, was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. 

I am also now in possession of a rather large wine collection, after being given a couple of bottles as Christmas presents from work, and then having a coupon for the Naked wine club from my train ticket this Christmas. I've had one bottle so far, and feel quite grown up having a cupboard full at home!

Onwards 2016

What's happened this year so far...

I've continued baking, and having invested in a small stand mixer (not one of those massive £600 ones) I used it to make some cupcakes for a leaving do at work. It was fun using it for the first time and I'm really happy with how it's worked out. It's a Kenwood; which is the same make as my Mum's mixer which is older than me! I'm pretty sure this will stand the test of time.

I booked myself into the West London Donor Centre to give blood; which they finally took. I've given blood a couple of times before, but every time I've tried to give since they always turn me away. Such are the downsides to travelling so often. Finally I was able to give again, and I've booked in for a couple of months time so I'm hoping to continue to add this little good deed to my routine!

I started to buy things again this year, and have so far invested in some decent leggings, a couple of checked shirts and have replaced my work out converse. These were all things I had realised I needed to buy or replace and have so far used all of them quite a lot. After my no spending challenge, I'm obviously not going to never buy anything again but I'm definitely glad that I now consider what I actually need or will use more that just buying things for the sake of it!

Lastly, I have become completely obsessed with my keepcup, which I mentioned back in October. My Mum bought it for Christmas and I think I've actually started drinking more coffee because of it! I had thought that it would be embarrassing and awkward asking to get my drink in a reusable cup, I envisages baristas saying no, or looking at me like I was a crazy person. None of this has happened at all. Every place that I've taken the cup have accepted it no problem and only a couple of times have people been surprised. In these instances I just explain that I don't want a paper cup and no one has any argument! The only thing for me now, I to actually use it less! Otherwise I'm going to end up wasting far too much money on coffee!!