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)

161: no sense of direction

Yesterday I was suffering from a lack of motivation caused, I suspect, by the knowledge that to get to any good trails from my house would involve a ludicrous amount of sticky clay on my boots. I do not like mud, and living where I do at the edge of the London Clay Bed (that’s geology, that is) there is a lot of about, especially after the amount of rain last week. However, the training plan called for an 8k so I needed to do something.

(Why are we training? See here and please throw some pennies our way!)

With the promise of bara brith and a sausage roll London sister agreed to make the trek over to Essex and with the help of Peter Aylmer’s Walking in Essex we headed off to Hatfield Forest for a 10k ramble. It’s a handy little pocket sized book with 25 different walks as well as a good guide to the Essex Way. Thanks to a walk round Lea Valley Park one summer afternoon, Tan refers to Essex as a ‘flyblown wasteland’ which is a little unfair, as currently it’s more of a swamp.

We parked in the official car park near the cafe and lake, and the start of the walk was back in Takeley Street. I flummoxed Tan by being completely unable to relate where we were to the map in front of us. That was the point that she made me hand over the book and promise never to attempt a solo walk which wasn’t clearly waymarked. This is probably a good idea.

Anyway, thanks to Tan we found the start of the walk on the Flitch Way, a ‘linear nature reserve’ along a former railway line from Braintree to Bishop’s Stortford. After half a mile or so we turned off into fields along the Pincey Brook valley, stopping for a picnic on a handy tree trunk. The walk intersected in places with the Harcamlow Way and then looped back into Hatfield Forest, where we realised just how close we were to Stansted Airport’s runways.

Hatfield Forest was full of dog walkers and miniature swamps, as well as cowslips and primroses, and although we didn’t find the promised Iron Age remains at Portingbury Hills we didn’t get lost despite diversions off the route round Colin’s Coppice. Back at the lake we had a look at the Shell House, designed by a 15 year old who may never have seen a chicken or an eagle, and admired the ducks before sitting down for bara brith and hot drinks – coffee for Tan and hot chocolate for me – just as the weather started to turn. And turn it did – the rainstorm hit as we were on the M11 and visibility was almost nil as we were coming back into North Weald.

It was easier to find some motivation this morning so I was up and out by 7am, with a non-muddy route planned which took me up to North Weald Redoubt, Ongar Park Hall farm and Dial House, and across to Toot Hill where I got distracted by a road I hadn’t been down before (to Clatterford End) before remembering that I was going swimming at half past eight which meant racing home to sluice off and change into my bathers. I spotted my first hare of the year as well as three muntjacs and a whole lot of rabbits along the route.

And now I need a nap, but the ironing is looking at me…

Other things making me happy this week

  • Homemade bara brith
  • New Kate Shugak installation appearing on my Kindle
  • Being bounced at by the Bella-dog this morning
  • Hyacinths on the windowsill
  • The cherry tree at the end of the road in full blossom and smelling like marzipan
  • Sunday afternoon with time for a nap….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak investigations 8-18 – Dana Stabenow

156: we’re off to see the blizzard

This post – number 156 – marks the third anniversary of this blog, and since most of those early posts covered lots of walking, it seems only right that I should carry on rambling.

After last week’s 20k walk I have been FAR more sensible and followed the training plan that’s plotted out neatly on my calendar: 5k on Tuesday evening and two lots of 5 over the weekend (although that turned into an 8 and a 4, but never mind). I’ve said it before and I will almost certainly say it again, but getting out and walking reminds me that I’m very lucky to live in an area with lots of space to ramble and lots of wildlife to admire.

Tuesday evening’s walk took me across North Weald Common, over the fields behind the house and down a country lane. The sun was just setting and the moon was rising, the wildlife was on the move and after a busy day dashing around with work it was a moment of peace.

It also turned out to be the last fine weather for a couple of days, as Wednesday to Friday were drizzly and miserable with snow showers, sleet, rain and wind at this end of the world. Storm Larissa brought lots of snow to other parts of the UK but we just got the dregs which felt very unfair.

This tree is just showing off

Not to be thwarted, however, when the sun came out on Saturday I dragged my beloved and Thing 3 off for a walk to make the most of it. We covered an 8km loop which took us through the woods in the ancient Ongar Great Park where we heard a nuthatch and great tits shouting their heads off, round Tawney Common and back up through the wood on a lollipop route. We saw buzzards, many rooks and crows and spotted signs of spring.

Saturday also included a cold water swim, which at 5 degrees felt icy. The cold snap meant that the pipes had frozen in the cafe and I’d forgotten the flask, so a quick trip to McDonald’s for breakfast was in order afterwards. The lake ducks, who also rely on the cafe for their breakfast, were most aggrieved.

The final walk this morning was a 4km with Sue, one of my swimming buddies, and the adorable Bella-dog and was around Ambresbury Banks just past Epping. We had a good ramble round the banks and along some of the wide tracks in that part of Epping Forest – there’s the remains of the Outer London Defence Ring in the area, lots of puddles for Bella to paddle in (including one rather deeper than she expected!) and lots of interesting leaves and sticks to chase (Bella again).

Other things making me happy this week

Hanging out with teachers – both serving and trainees

On Tuesday afternoon one of my colleagues and I headed off to Central Foundation Girls School in Mile End to meet the Tower Hamlets Secondary Design and Technology Network, who we’d been trying to get in touch with for several years but (thanks to GDPR) have proved elusive. We took along a few items from the handling collection and talked to them about the new museum but most of all we listened to what they wanted from us in terms of curriculum support and school visits.

On Thursday I visited the London East Teacher Training Alliance, who I have been doing sessions with for more than a decade and who are some of my favourite people to work with. I love ITT students as they’re all still so enthusiastic, and the early years students in particular who are all about the play. We did the Think Small session to start with, designing and building animal homes, and then two of our Creative Learning Facilitators joined the session to share the learning they’d gained from using the Hero Arm to talk about limb difference to very young children. We finished up with a fingerprint activity inspired by the whorls created when 3D printing the Hero Arm: thinking about individuality and what makes us all special.

Crochet socks

Two pairs finished this week! The first ones are the Calecentine Socks by Vicki Brown Design and CoopKnits. I used Stylecraft Head over Heels Allstars sock yarn in Saltaire, and the tail end of a ball of Drops Nord for the ‘windows’. I like Vicki Brown’s socks as the patterns are straightforward, unlike the Dragon Scale socks on the right.

The sizing on these was ridiculous – even with a hook 3 sizes up than that recommended they came up too small and too narrow and had to be frogged and redone. The yarn is the one used in the pattern (Cygnet Boho Spirit), so I can only assume the S/M/L size range in the pattern is for very small people!

Kumihomo: Japanese Silk Braiding exhibition

As I had a rare afternoon without meetings I took myself off to Japan House in High Street Kensington to see this exhibition. It’s quite small but very lovely, and while I knew what kumihomo was I didn’t know about all the applications or how it’s being used today.

I had a great conversation with a woman who was fascinated by the stitching and construction of a Victorian dolman garment, and watched some very soothing videos of dyeing silk and weaving braids. Hopefully we’ll be able to explore this in the programming around the Japan: Myths to Manga exhibition at the museum later in the year.


They always make me happy, to be fair.

Ted and Bailey in jungle mode

And now I have to do the ironing that I didn’t do last week….

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Going Postal/Making Money – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Changes/Ghost Story – Jim Butcher

151: if you go down to the woods today

February has landed at last – January was a very long year, wasn’t it? The sun is shining, daffodils and crocuses and suchlike are starting to show signs of life and, despite the Daily Express’s* constant and dire predictions of the RETURN OF THE BEAST FROM THE EAST and POLAR VORTEX bringing SNOWBOMBS and other such cheery weather, it all seems pretty optimistic and springy out there.

I have just returned from a rather nice ramble through the local woods this morning – just over 10k tagged, though I suspect it was more as my Strava app crashed somewhere in the forest. Soundtracked by some random stuff on Spotify, it was a fairly speedy romp on trails and tracks: everything from the 60s with Simon and Garfunkel, Dusty Springfield and Creedence Clearwater Revival right through to more recent stuff like the Beastie Boys, Zac Brown Band and The Offspring. Along with the many squirrels dashing about the place, I was lucky enough to spot a muntjac ahead of me on the rhododendron walk that borders Gaynes Park, ring-neck parakeets at Stonards Hill in Epping, and many people with their various hounds including one with only three paws and a very friendly face.

Today’s walk was a tried and tested route, which took me through ancient coppiced woodland in the old Ongar Park Wood, Gernon Bushes nature reserve and through to the sports fields in Epping where I looped back round to come home. There were some muddy patches, but the path was nothing like as impassable as it has been in previous years when it’s been a swamp until at least May. This probably says something about the weather over the last year or so, although the bog in our back garden would say otherwise

Essex, despite being ridiculously flat, does have some good walking – I still want to complete the Essex Way at some point, but it may be in stages! Hopefully in the course of training for the Race to the Stones I can cover a bit more of it – there’s a useful book which breaks it down into circular walks. The Stort Valley Way also starts near the village, heading up to Harlow and beyond, and there seem to be a few others in the area as well.

Now I just need to develop a sense of direction.

*please note, I do not read the Daily Express but Google and MSN like to show me the headlines on their homepages. I am cheered by the fact that in a couple of months the headlines will change to HOTTEST SUMMER ON RECORD and GLOBAL MELTDOWN and MORDOR RETURNS. It’s like getting out your summer wardrobe.

Other things making me happy this week…

  • Teaching the Think Small session at Chobham Academy – I love the ideas kids come up with to make animal homes
  • Thing 3 turned 12 yesterday.
  • Finishing January on the Temperature Supernova
  • Crocheting socks.

Less happy-making was having to cancel a long-awaited trip to Cardiff to see the Socially Distant Sports Bar live show with gigbuddy Jen – while I am completely behind all these strikers, they RUINED my weekend. Also, vet bills.

Anyway – next week I shall be broadcasting from France! I can’t wait…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Last Remains – Elly Griffiths

Men At Arms/Feet of Clay – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

Death Masks – Jim Butcher

Cover image: Forest Track in Ongar Park Wood
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Chris Heaton – geograph.org.uk/p/5931265

129: Quoth the raven ‘nevermore’

OK, it wasn’t a raven but a crow, and it didn’t actually say anything, but ANYWAY. Yesterday my friend Amanda and I ticked off number five on the Magnificent Seven cemeteries list with a visit to Abney Park in Stoke Newington as she was house sitting in Shoreditch again.

We hopped on a bus from Shoreditch High Street which took us through Hackney and Clapton, and then missed the entrance as it was hidden behind hoardings. We didn’t notice till we’d walked as far as Stamford Hill, when it dawned on us that the 400 yards that Google had said had been going on for a while!

Once we’d made it through the building site to the cemetery it was lovely – cool under the trees and with lots of friendly hounds and their people. Like several of the other cemeteries we have visited much of it is now left wild as a nature reserve, and indeed this was the first such reserve in Hackney – it was planted as an arboretum so there is a huge variety of trees on site, as well as a ‘rosarium’. There’s apparently some interesting mushrooms (not that sort of interesting) and assorted fungi about. I was quite taken by this fallen tree where the mushrooms were fruiting into the hollow trunk.

There are fewer celebrity burials in Abney Park than in Highgate and Brompton etc, but we did find a memorial to Isaac Watts, the hymn writer – apparently there was a spot he particularly liked to hang out in. There was also a very imposing statue of him further in – he’s buried in Bunhill Fields along with John Bunyan (all those nonconformist types!) but Hackney was his stamping ground. Our favourite grave belonged to Sophia Caroline Whittle, ‘Relict of the late ‘Censorious”. We couldn’t find out any more about ‘Censorious’ but I’d love to know!

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have been working hard cleaning and clearing their sites in Abney Park so there are shining white stones among the Victorian greys. Many of these seemed to date from late 1918, sadly – just a day after the end of the war in one case. There are lots of little tracks off the main paths, allowing you to explore. Like the others we have visited many of the older graves are overgrown and inaccessible, but that allows for the wildlife to thrive. We saw squirrels and heard a lot of parakeets – but no signs of the owls who nest in the trees, who were presumably tucked up for the day.

It’s funny to think that there are trends in funerary décor as with everything else – in one area there will be a row of Grecian urns, and in another a set of identical angels topping the plinths. Perhaps the local memorial stonemasons have sales? There seem to be a lot of Blitz victims, which is to be expected in East London. We saw the non-denominational chapel, which was only used for burial services and not for worship and which is sadly closed after falling into disrepair. Quinn London, who are also the ones doing the base build at my own dear museum, are responsible for the restoration of both the entrance and the chapel so a trip back might be worthwhile when the works are completed.

One thing that does worry me is the number of people who ‘fell asleep’ and ended up in the cemetery – if someone could double check that I haven’t just dropped off before they plant me that would be great.

After a quick refuelling stop in ‘Stokey’ (as I believe the ‘hipper’ natives refer to it) we headed south again – the first bus that came along was the 106, which took us through Hackney and down to Cambridge Heath station where we got off and walked down Hackney Road to Columbia Road. I lived on Hackney Road for several years, and back then it was punctuated by strip clubs and derelict shops. It’s now restored and rebuilt in many places, with bars, coffee shops and the odd boutique (OK, and strip clubs). I was glad to see the City Cafe II still in situ – excellent bubble and squeak on a Sunday morning!

We walked through Columbia Road, stopping at the British Cheese Shop where I definitely didn’t have a Monty Python moment, and rejoined Hackney Road at the Old Street end, where we decided to detour via Hoxton Street Market and Hoxton Square – I love the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies shop (supporting a literacy charity). The market is hanging on as a community space – the City looms over it and the gentrification of Shoreditch is slowly sneaking up, but until then you can still buy second hand china, clothes, fruit and veg and hear people greeting friends and ‘aunties’. There’s a wonderful old building that was an early asylum, which took serious Google-fu to find out about, and there’s still lots of evidence of Hoxton’s artisan past.

The door of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

After a quick stop for a cuppa and a biscuit or two we wandered over to the Barbican to buy some supplies (OK, tequila. But we got salad too.), walking via Bunhill Fields so we got two cemeteries in in one day. John Bunyan is tucked up in there, flown over by the ubiquitous parakeets and scampered on by squirrels.

Post-dinner, we were people watching from the roof and observed five Hackney enforcement officers arrive to deal with one graffiti artist – not because of his artwork (which we liked when we went to see it afterwards) but because he was obstructing a parking space with his kit. The area has become famous for the street art – from Stik and others to your basic taggers – and some of the pieces are amazing. Still, heaven forbid you take up a parking space! We went for a late night round-the-block (9.30 is late, surely?) and judging by the drop in people on the streets of Shoreditch we may be witnessing the beginning of the recession – also, people seem to be buying their nitrous oxide in bulk now rather than in the little canisters, looking the aerosol sized cans about the place when we walked the dog this morning!

Tequila sunset

I’m pretty sure it’s nap time now, though – all that walking took it out of me!

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Thing 3 starting secondary school
  • Finishing my talk for the GEM conference this week (phew!)
  • Hanging out with my godson and his girlfriend as well as Amanda
  • Not having Covid any more
  • Several dog walks

See you next week! This week I am off to the Crafts Council for an in person thing, to Derby Silk Mill for the GEM conference – exciting!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

If It Bleeds/The Outsider/Finders Keepers – Stephen King

111: Uphill all the way

Yesterday I fulfilled a long held ambition and went on one of Paul Talling’s guided walks through London, specifically the route of the River Fleet from Blackfriars to St Pancras Old Church. I’ve been a fan of his photos since the very first Derelict London days, when I stumbled across them while researching something completely different, and in 2012 he kindly allowed me to use some of his pre-regeneration photos of the Olympic Park to support a school session I was running at the Museum of London Docklands. When my friend messaged me the other day to say she had a spare ticket for the Fleet walk and would I like to come, there was only one possible answer. As one of my longest-standing friends (37 years!), ex-flatmate in our mis-spent London years and graduate of the Durham Arms school of Sunday drinking, the chance for a catch-up post-lockdown was unmissable too. (Kerst – you know that I’d have said yes even without the walk!)

I never planned to stay in London for more than a few years and certainly never expected to fall in love with it and all its history, but there we are. I have actually done the Fleet walk before, self-guided and in the other direction as part of a partnership with the Hampstead Heath education team: we used Paul Talling’s book and this one to guide us and completed the walk over two days. The first section, from the source just below Kenwood on Hampstead Heath through to St Pancras, was on a gloriously sunny day in early summer. The second part, a few weeks later, was in such torrential rain (in June!) that at the end of the walk we actually had to go to H&M and buy new clothes as everything we were wearing was soaked through. Still, the downpour at least meant that we could see as well as hear the Fleet through the drain on Ray Street in Clerkenwell. Yesterday was hot and sunny and perfect for a lazy ramble through the streets of London.

Blackfriars station, where we had arranged to meet, is on both sides of the river as well as across the middle, and it’s the only one of the big mainline termini I have never caught a train from. Eventually we worked out that if we both went on Blackfriars Bridge we’d be bound to cross paths, so having managed that we headed for coffee and a catch-up before the walk. The start point for the walk was the very beautiful Blackfriar pub, which has been recently restored and the frontage positively glowed in the sunshine.

I won’t go into too much detail about the content of the walk, except to say that Talling’s background as a gig promoter as well as his knowledge of London and its past meant we were treated to a whole lot of side anecdotes about various bands, pubs and local areas. The route took in what’s left of the Bridewell prison, a horde of Millwall fans with a lot of police keeping an eye on them, Smithfield Market (eventually to be the site of the new Museum of London) and Mount Pleasant where the Mail Rail originally started before finishing at St Pancras Old Church and the Hardy Tree. It was only about three miles but took four hours, and we felt we had earned the Nando’s lunch afterwards! We used to go to Nando’s back when we lived in Bethnal Green in the late 90s, so it felt like a good way to end our day. Sunny Saturdays in London always bring out the ill-advised fashion choices – the chap in the turquoise satin tracksuit carrying the bottle of Hooch really was a blast from the past. Here, mate, the 90s called and they want their outfit back!

Here are some of the photos Kersti and I took over the day. We’ll definitely be doing more of these, and perhaps some self-guided ones as well through our old haunts!

Other highlights of the week:

  • New haircut (short!)
  • Finally coming to the end of the D&D campaign with an epic battle
  • Meeting up with the fab Really Big Pants Theatre Company again
  • Hearing Miss Jacqui speak at a networking event at Rich Mix
  • Finishing the dragon scale shawl I have been working on
  • Lovely swim this morning with the swans

So that’s that! Same time next week, gang!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Old Success – Martha Grimes

Win – Harlan Coben

All the Colours of Darkness – Peter Robinson

92: squelch squerch

This week my walking buddy Jill (cover photo artist!) and I have made the most of being off for Christmas and headed out ‘early doors’ (she’s from Yorkshire) for a couple of welly walks. We love our walks: we put the world to rights, appreciate the scenery, stomp on icy puddles and squish our way through the muddy ones. Some weeks she is grouchy, other weeks it’s me. We test out ideas for work or catastrophise in the knowledge that we can go into the office the next day with our heads back on straight. It’s like therapy. There’s something about walking next to someone, not facing them, that allows stress and those wake-you-up-at-3am thoughts to spill out.

Some days we go further than others: round the roads to Tawney Common, or across to Toot Hill, or round past Dial House and the farm to see the cows, or the old golf course and flood meadows. Sometimes it’s the short 5k through the woods and back, or to the end of the village. Whatever, I always come back feeling better and ready to face the week.

It was a week of extremes: one day it was -4°c and the world was white. The sun was coming up in spectacular fashion, the puddles were frozen and we crackled our way down to the farm and home via the station. The plan was to check what time the light fantastic train was running that day so we could drag the kids up to Marconi Bridge to watch it go through, but they were only doing the Santa Special till after Christmas. We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the smell of frying bacon from the station cafe and indulged in a bacon roll and tea, listening to the brass quartet playing Christmas carols and watching overexcited kids waiting for Santa’s train to arrive.

The following day was much warmer so the puddles were squelchy once more (as you can see from the cover photo). That day’s route took us through the fields to the radio station (hence Marconi Bridge) and past North Weald Redoubt, finishing up at Jill’s house for tea and a rummage through boxes of craft stuff from a friend’s house clearing. I was very good and only came home with a few balls of yarn and some toy eyes. My plan this week was to try and destash some craft things from the shed, not bring home more – I did send some yarn up to Jill’s mum, and got rid of a whole lot of jewellery making stuff, which was a start.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed at least a few days off and will be grabbing the opportunity for a Boxing Day welly walk – we have A, H and the grandchild over today, but I’m looking forward to a few more walks this week.

All can now be revealed…

As it’s after Christmas I can share the gifts I made – the wall hanging was for our Dungeonmaster and his wife and I made them open it while I was there playing board games on Monday. The ‘Eira Owls’ were for their daughters. The little pigs in granny square blankets have been ridiculously popular and I ended up making more than 20 of them as Christmas ‘cards’* for colleagues and my swimming buddies, and then as requests for people who’d seen them on Facebook. They’ve gone off to Wales, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and London. I still have several to do after Christmas but I have to get two presents out in January and a couple for February first!**

(* I don’t send cards to anyone but immediate family, but donate to a charity every year instead – this year it was the Trussell Trust. I make little decorations that can be brought out year after year – I love seeing people’s photos of their trees with my work on!)

(** Yes, I am taking orders. They are £6 each plus postage!)

I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas with family and friends, that you’re all safe and warm and looking forward to 2022. By the time next week’s post appears we’ll be in a whole new year!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Untold Story – Genevieve Cogman

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (Audible)

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

The Toast of Time – Jodi Taylor

The Long and the Short of it – Jodi Taylor (Audible)