167: every which way but right

What is it about Clerkenwell and Farringdon? This week I have managed to get completely lost (twice) in the maze of streets surrounding them while trying to find my way back to the office. I think perhaps I get distracted by interesting alleyways and cut-throughs and – once – by a very beautifully executed sculpture of David Beckham’s naked torso, complete with tattoos. I had to go back and look twice, in fact, as it was so well done. Anyway. Where was I?

Oh yes, I didn’t know where I was, and that was my point. The first occasion was on Tuesday morning after having coffee with Amanda, who pointed in the general direction of Farringdon and I still managed to get lost. Eventually I found my way back with the aid of Google Maps, which is FINE if you can make it stay in the direction of travel. If not then you have to walk thisaway and thataway until you work out which way is the right one, and then reverse it in your head.

I got lost again on Friday afternoon after a visit to the Zaha Hadid Foundation and the ten minute walk back to the office on St John Street took half an hour. I didn’t realise how lost I was until I found the Mount Pleasant sorting office – I love that building but it was a long way down Farringdon Road from where I needed to be. It is a bit of a maze of narrow lanes and rookeries round there, and tucked away in all of them are lovely old Georgian squares, Victorian houses and funny little nooks.

I did, however, manage to walk successfully from the office to Bethnal Green and was only a bit distracted by Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium with its window full of furry friends.

This week we also had an ‘all-in’ day at work, when everyone comes on site. In the afternoon we had a workshop on class and class dynamics, run by Tonic Theatre, which was fascinating and uncomfortable in equal measures. From the reaction of our non-UK team members, the British concept of class is more than a bit weird. One exercise was around stereotyping: we were asked to give a working class/upper class sport, saying, food, art form, clothing and name. Another was to think about our own contexts in terms of education, economics, cultural capital and more – and about how that’s changed over generations. Turns out there’s a lot more to it that knowing which knife to use and not calling napkins serviettes or whatever.

Possibly one of my favourite aspects of the new job is being able to do a deep dive back into London history – especially the New River, which is neither new nor a river. The trouble as always is knowing when to surface…

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Long walks in the sunshine: this weekend I’ve covered 40k over two walks. The first was the Moreton and the Matchings walk I did in the rain on the coronation weekend, the second was a slow loop around Tawney Common.
  • On a related note, farmers who cut the public footpaths back in have made it to the list. You know who you are (well, I don’t). If you could see your way clear to hacking back the nettles too, that would be great. Nettles are not on the list.
  • Overhearing one of the trustees talking to ACTUAL QUENTIN BLAKE about ME.
  • Crochet octopi and a Totoro cross-stitch update

Now I’m off for a shower and a nap…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

A Dying Light in Corduba/Three Hands in the Fountain – Lindsey Davis

Zero Waste Patterns – Birgitta Helmersson

Exploring the New River – Michael Essex-Lopresti

That Mitchell & Webb Sound S1-5 (Audible)

166: careful K, your nerd is showing

Here I am at the end of my first week at my new job, which is pretty flipping exciting indeed.

You know sometimes when you start a new job that you spend the first few days feeling a bit lost, as everyone else is getting on with things and no one is quite sure what to do with you? Or they give you a whirlwind tour of the building and then you spend the next week trying to remember where the staff toilets are, what the coffee arrangements are and who that person is in the corner.

This week was not that week.

Tan and I flew back from Mallorca on Monday night – delayed by an hour, the M23/M25 junction was closed, so was the South Circular, so we had to detour through the wilds of south-west London (there are a lot of Specsavers and Boots stores there, I can tell you). The saving grace was that the loud idiot who had been on our flight out was not on our flight back, though the rest of the hen and stag parties were so we suspect he was either arrested or deported*. I was staying in Ealing, so I staggered into bed just after 2am (bless my brother-in-law for setting up the airbed for me before we got back!) and lurched out again at 6. The plan was to meet my bestie at 8am for a first day coffee, as we’re now working within a few minutes’ walk of each other.

The Elizabeth Line had other ideas – a 25 minute journey took more than an hour and a half, which was either due to a faulty train, someone on the track, an eddy in the space-time continuinuinuum, or possibly the software gremlin which has been causing the emergency braking system to engage randomly since they upgraded it in April. The Lizzie line starts running at full timetable this week, so let’s see how that works.

Anyway. Day one included a speedy tour of the building. We’re lodging temporarily in a comms company’s back office, while our own FABULOUS new site at New River Head is under development. It’s open and friendly, and we’re all in the same room. Hot desks again, so I’m still carrying a laptop around, but never mind. Here, the station to go home is closer than the Secretariat gate at the V&A was from the offices. Once logged in I had a whole pile of emails waiting for me, things to read, and in the afternoon we had a project team meeting at the new site. No time to feel lost! I do need to make a laptop bag though.

The rest of the week has been reading policies and strategies and plans, and delving into my London library (glad I kept that!) to find out more about the history of the New River – ah, you’re a nerd already!, said the Director. Little does she know…I’ve met my team, arranged some more meetings with various people to get up to speed on things, and generally felt useful.

*Our flight out was disturbed by him making downright offensive comments to and about the air staff, passing mothers-of-brides. He claimed he was ‘bringing the party’. I suspect someone else had dropped out and the groom had invited him to fill the numbers as they’d been at primary school together, as the rest of the stag party were nice and well-behaved. The man next to me had words with him. He made a comment about other people needing to wear headphones. I lost my cool (ha!) slightly. Yes, I called him sunshine. We were all friends by the end of the flight but still…

The rest of the week…

Our last day in Mallorca was Sal’s birthday, and we started off with an early swim at the tiny beach in Deia where we disappointed the local white van men delivering beer to the bar by keeping our tops on. We suspect they were waiting for the lithe blonde lady who appeared as we were leaving, who would have made them much happier. Breakfast on the balcony followed, with fresh pastries, oranges from the tree and Spanish hot chocolate. The ‘little stroll’ around Deia we’d decided on turned out to be just under 9k, taking in the beach again, a climb up the hill beyond the villa where we saw a black vulture circling, a wander round the town and finally tapas and a well-earned drink. We also saw a red kite or two, heard a nightingale, and discovered some really loud frogs.

On the Sunday we’d tackled a nice easy mountain (!) and scrambled over to very pretty Valdemossa, where we had well-deserved cake and a wander round the town while waiting for the bus back. The buses are a hair-raising experience at times, as the roads are long and windy and the buses are…not. They are bus-sized buses, as Jane said. The bus back from Valdemossa was slightly late, and the driver made a special effort to make up time on the way to Deia. We were sitting down but still felt the need to hold on!

Yesterday’s long walk was much less exotic, but also a lot less mountainous as it was in Essex – I did manage to find some hills to boost my elevation, though. I took the same footpath I used a few weeks ago but turned right instead of left at the bottom of the hill. I should have turned round after 6k, as a 12k was on the plan but I was enjoying the walk so I carried on. 24k later… the walk took me through Theydon Mount, Hobbs Cross, Theydon Garnon, Theydon Bois (as I’ve said before, Essex likes to make the most of a good name), past Ambresbury Banks and down into Epping, where I joined the Essex Way through Coopersale and Gernon Bushes back home. The sun was out, the glam rock playlist was on, and the pace was fine. Today there’s been a swim at the lake – the swans have one cygnet left and they are quite feisty. One bit an unwary swimmer’s foot, in fact.

There’s a 12k on the cards this afternoon, so I’d better go and fuel up!

As always, you can find out why we’re scrambling up mountains and wandering through forests at our JustGiving page. I’m £175 off my personal fundraising target, and it would be great to raise as much as we can for Parkinsons Research. Gwrachod Ar Daith translates roughly to ‘Witches on Tour’ – a long tour at 100km and now only 6 weeks or so away…

See you next week.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Last Act in Palmyra/Time to Depart – Lindsey Davis

That Mitchell &Webb Sound – Audible

165: the goat ate my homework

Next week I shall tell you all about my first day at work, but for now you’re getting some lovely photos of the view from the villa, our 8 mile walk from Deia to Port de Soller (including the sun/rain contrast taken two minutes apart), local wildlife, and breakfast picked fresh from the tree. Today apparently includes mountains and Valdemossa.

If you’re wondering why these four mad women are tackling mountains in Mallorca… Have a look here

And now it’s breakfast time…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Iron Hand of Mars/Poseidon’s Gold – Lindsey Davis

Maskerade – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

164: triangulate!

As I type this I am sitting down with my feet up, and this is where I plan to stay until the Horde require feeding again later. So far this weekend I have covered almost 29k, and I have definitely earned the afternoon nap I’m planning just as soon as I hit the publish button on this post.

Yesterday’s walk was 18k, and thanks to a combination of Google maps, the Ordnance Survey app* and my Walking in Essex book I mostly didn’t get lost (although I did take a wrong turn somewhere near Matching Green and had to reorient myself) and made it back to my start point successfully. I followed a route around Moreton and the Matchings, a set of pretty little Essex villages which didn’t even look too bad in yesterday’s persistent drizzle. One thing you can say about Essex is that when they land on a name they make the most of it – Matchings Tye and Green; Magdalen, High and Little Laver; a swathe of Rodings and a plethora of Woodfords.

The walk took four hours, give or take a minute or two, and enabled me not only to get some distance in and try out my new Injinji socks but also to avoid all the nonsense going on on the telly yesterday. It was great – wandering down green lanes and through fields in blissful peace. In 18k I only saw two other people, and a dog adopted me for the last mile or so and kept me company. I hope he found his way home. It was a lovely route, occasionally taking in sections of the Forest Way and Stort Valley Way, tracing the Cripsey Brook for a while, passing various little country churches and chapels, listening to the birds and saying hello to horses. It would have been better if my Strava and OS tracking hadn’t failed, but never mind.

Today’s walk was almost 11k, with my friend Rachel and her one-year-old Weimaraner Loki who bounced about so much that he must have covered twice the distance. I came back with soggy feet, pawprints and half of Essex on my boots thanks to the clayey soil. We saw a moat with ducks, a lot of long grass, pretty yellow wagtails and skylarks zipping about and then took a very long detour home!

The bacon butties I made for lunch were very well-deserved!

*the OS map also got a lot of use last Monday when Tan and I went for a walk in the Surrey Hills – being able to locate ourselves with map references when following directions like ‘turn right at a metal gate’ was useful. That walk had lots of pillboxes, bluebells and excellent views as well as some unexpected alpacas.

Other things making me happy this week:

  • A day with my new team and the luxury of a proper handover with my predecessor at the Quentin Blake Centre
  • A full moon swim followed by marshmallows and hot chocolate
  • Finishing my latest socks
  • Another long weekend, but I am not walking ANYWHERE tomorrow
  • A remnant fabric pack to experiment with

Next week I’ll be coming to you from sunny Majorca! It’s my last week at Young V&A, too…

And now it’s nap time…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Venus in Copper/The Iron Hand of Mars – Lindsey Davis

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett (Audible)