Where to watch fireworks in London

I’ve never liked Halloween. I don’t understand the appeal of dressing up like I’ve been in a car crash and then trying to look a little bit sexy.

Bonfire night? That’s different. Fireworks, hot dogs and good clean fun is something I can get behind. I’ll happily park objections to the (equally weird) ritual of celebrating burning someone alive, for a spiced cider and everyone coming together.

Bang

Bang

So great is my nerdy nostalgia I invited friends over for a ‘firework themed lunch’ (which I know sounds like the start of an ill-fated episode of casualty, but don’t worry it was FINE). I even consulted Pippa Middleton’s suggestions for a bonfire feast in her much-mocked ‘party book’ Celebrate. I made her filled jacket potatoes, before moving on to my own honey and mustard sausages and a great toffee apple and blackcurrant crumble recipe I found. Unfortunately London was 30 degrees, so I really should have adapted and served salads and ice-cream.

I usually go to Battersea Park Fireworks – its amazing display, set to music in such regal and impressive surroundings – is one of the best ways to spend £10 in London. However this year, we headed up to North London (so far up I risked a nosebleed) to see what Alexandra Palace had to offer.

Whizz

Whizz

The first noticeable thing were the crowds – the display was delayed by half an hour to let everyone in. But once it started it was amazing and they chucked  everything at it. As my friend aptly put it, it was basically like watching exploding money.

Pop

Pop

However, one of the best things was discovering the aerial view of London on the viewing platform. Just stunning and my camera phone doesn’t do it justice.

What a view

What a view

So I’ll come back to Ally Pally – even if there are no fireworks. But Battersea Park’s display is scheduled for next weekend in case I’ve tempted anyone….

A night in the museum of London: sherlock launch

Forgive me for sounding cocksure, but I am pretty confident that I would make a fantastic TV detective. Sure, I wouldn’t be much of an asset in a tower-block stair chase, or able to stare down a criminal with a gun pointed at my brain, slowly walking towards them with a withering confidence that caused them to gently hand me the weapon (like my hero Jack Frost). But I’m pretty sure I could make enough sweeping Poirot-esque judgements to spot the nutter on a cruse ship full of village idiots (Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple would totes be my level).

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So I was beyond thrilled to be invited to the launch of the Museum of London’s Sherlock Holmes exhibition; ‘The man who never lived and will never die’. Not just because I have a huge lust for Benedict Cumberbatch and love the BBC’s Sherlock series, but also because it was super exciting to go to a launch party.

Sherlock Holmes

Before anyone freaks out -Benedict wasn’t there – but Sir Ian McKellen, who will star in next year’s film ‘Mr Holmes’ directed by Bill Condin – WAS. He gave a lovely speech on the portrayal of Sherlock over time and the central role of London in the stories. Later  I got close enough to Ian to embarrass my friend and take this – admittedly, quite poor quality photo.

Sir Ian - stares straight ahead and hopes I'll stop

Sir Ian – stares straight ahead and hopes I’ll stop

The exhibition was very cool – bringing together original Conan Doyle manuscripts, along with costumes, books and other artifacts. There was a fine selection of art – which told a story about Sherlock Holmes and the London of his time. It was also really interactive to walk around.

Sherlock selfie – If only we’d got a shot of Ian doing this

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Readers of this blog will know why I couldn’t resist including this shot.

A desert bar - gets my vote

Museum of London kept us well fed and watered

Deer stalkers - great stocking filler

Deer stalkers – on sale at the gift shop and great stocking fillers

The Sherlock Holmes exhibition will be at the Museum of London until April 2015. It is definitely worth a visit, as is the rest of the museum, which is full of facts on London and provides a fascinating overview of the history of this great city.

Super fast birthday dinner for bad daughters

You know when its Friday night and you’re supposed to be cooking a birthday dinner for your Mum? But you finish work late and then you have to make everything in half an hour and feel like having a mental breakdown?

Maybe you don’t, because you’re probably much better at life than me.

But if you do ever need to make a super-fast, super nice birthday dinner (or any dinner), this is what I would suggest making because I have SO BEEN THERE…and this kind of works.

First – whack parma and melon on a fancy plate…simple things.

Picture of melon and parma ham

Melon and parma ham

I love Jo Pratt’s ‘lazy tray baked chicken’. You just throw the ingredients in a large roasting pan  – big pieces of chicken combined with panceta, baby potatoes, chopped red onion and carrots (or any veg you feel like really – peppers work well), along with a generous helping of lemon segments,  rosemary and a good drizzle of honey. This needs about an 1.15 in the oven at 200 degrees.

Picture of chicken

Tray baked chicken

Desert is my take on another Jo Pratt classic – plums and peaches halved, de-stoned and filled with mascarpone (mix in the zest of an orange first) combined with amaretto biscuits. Pour over a good glunk of port with some flaked almonds sprinkled on top. This needs about 25 minutes in the oven on 200 degrees.

Picture of peaches and plums

Mascarpone peaches and plums

And finally – if you are crazy like me – some part of you will have pre-empted your late finish from work and have got up at 6am to make cupcakes – because you can’t have a birthday dinner without cake. We accidentally bought golden icing, but I think this actually looks way fancier. And tastes amazing with chunks of Green and Blacks on top. Of course.

Picture of birthday cupcakes

Birthday Cupcakes

18 ways to survive autumn in London

Summer is ending. Raspberries are out of season and the nights and the spiders are drawing in.

OH WELL. I’ve already moved on to my new boyfriend – Autumn – season of opaque tights, stained red wine lips and double helpings of carbs.

London by David Holt

You do need a survival plan for this time of year in London though – or it gets depressing, in a ‘being soaked by a massive bus splash and then questioning the meaning of life’ kind of way – so here is my list of 18 things I plan to do in London in Autumn to *BASICALLY STAY SANE*. (Please note I make no apology that 80% of these things involve eating).

  1. Dinner at The Dairy in Clapham – supposed to be an incredible restaurant – and autumn is the  time to eat in incredible restaurants so you can order desert with custard with the excuse we need the ‘nutritional value/warmth to SURVIVE THE WEATHER’
  2.  Noodles at the newly reopened Pepper Tree in Clapham –  my secret restaurant when I lived in Clapham. Except everyone loved it too. I had a minor stroke when I thought it had closed down. But they were just renovating it. PAD THAI I’M COMING BACK FOR YOU.
  3. See Gone Girl at the cinema – remember the cinema? I know I haven’t been for months either. Gone Girl is blatantly going to be  insane.
  4. Buy a leather jacket and maybe a big tartan scarf and definitely also an aggressive new eyeliner – October needs confronting with a strong look
  5. Make a vat of chicken casserole and eat it whilst watching Homeland and Downton Abbey – Lady Mary and Carrie Mathison are survivors and inspirations
  6. An autumn walk to pick sloe berries and make sloe gin – sounds idyllic, probably will descend into stealing berries from bushes outside people’s houses in SW London and making some kind of weird poison but I DON’T CARE I WANT TO DO IT
  7. See the Constable exhibition at the V&A – because I’m embarrassed I’ve been living in London for 8 years and never been to the V&A
  8. Book to go to Harry Potter Land and see the snow scene – I make no excuses
  9. Plant spring flowers – I’m thinking bluebells? Keep meaning to get down to Battersea Flower Station for some ideas
  10. See Live at the Apollo – tickets aren’t for general sale but you can apply and potentially go for free *how amazing is that*
  11. Plan a firework party/trip to Battersea Park or Ally Pally – honestly one of the best things about living in London in November, love the feeling of layering up for some communal pyrotechnics
  12. Make a roast dinner for friends. With cauliflower cheese as a focal ingredient…Oh and crumble
  13. Brixton Vilage for dinner – because I haven’t been for months and I’m getting withdrawal
  14. Shopping at Bicester Village which is definitely a bad idea but so what…
  15. A night at The Dogs at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium – I mean it sounds kind of scary, but also I DO own a sheepskin coat
  16. Drink beer/tour at a London brewery – like Meantime in Greenwich or By the Horns in Earlsfield (see the nice write up on ‘Go Earlsfield‘).
  17. Curry in Tooting Broadway – the South West Brick Lane
  18. Book a winter holiday – I mean…all of this is great, but I’m not Jesus – there is only so long you can go without summer

The photograph in this post is London October 13 2013 015 Conkers Clissold Park Hackney by David Holt.

A tourist in London, my own city

When you live in London, sometimes you stop seeing London. It can pass you by, like a big red bus.

Sometimes all I see are its problems – the rib-crushingly overcrowded tubes, the fact it costs £8 to drink a warm G&T on the road outside the pub. The tourists, the inequality, the shove and the push. The cycle of pressure, of late nights and long queues at Pret.  I  can forget the million different experiences waiting for us here. The counter flow of new restaurants and shows opening and new trends starting here first. The glamour, the excitement, the lights and the life. The fact that you are probably only a stones throw from a new opportunity, (or at least a Pret).

It took a boat-ride down the Thames  – being a tourist in my own city – to make me see what I sometimes forget. London’s majesty and grandeur.

The bridge that women built in WW2

The Thames – keeper of secrets

I don’t think London is necessarily beautiful or welcoming or kind. I cringe when people project a warm and fuzzy ‘I Love London’ Instagram identify onto a city that is, to me, ultimately tough and big and old. But I do think its stunning. On a boat trip on an ordinary day this city can certainly turn some heads. Sailing from Embankment, through the city to Greenwich, the word that springs to mind is ‘grand’.

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View of the Shard – this building wasn’t even HERE when I moved 8 years ago

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The Walkie Talkie – another new one

Picture of the Tate

The Tate – always there, too rarely visited by me

Five favourite things about Bellevue Village

I first stumbled upon the Bellevue Village Fair in 2012 and I’ve been going back ever since.

Its a funny place, this road. Despite being cornered by gridlocked city traffic, it has an ‘out of London’ feeling.

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Village life in the big city

The fair is just one of my favourite things – mostly because you can pretend you are in the Cotswolds for the day, buying local beer (from the exciting Belleville Brewery), and everything from art and jewelry to flowers (I was *thrilled* to see the Battersea Flower Station, as have always wanted to visit). It goes without saying that the fair attracts a very well-heeled crowd which makes for great people watching – lots of beautiful parents, with beautiful kids and immaculately groomed dogs (there was a dogs show this time) – I was half expecting David Cameron to show up.

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The food is always a particular highlight – I stuck my face in an amazing hot dog and eyed up about 572 cakes before settling on a chocolate, orange and almond number from Dee Light Bakery. I also bought some marmalade from an incredible woman wearing an apron calling her a ‘Jam Tart’.

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The Bellevue Village Fair sadly only happens twice a year (the next one should be  Christmas *fingers crossed*) but they best things about Bellevue road are here all year round:

  1. The Althorp – amazing local gastropub looking out on the Common. Plays live music. Does a lush chicken burger.
  2. Jo Partridge – lovely hairdressers with the best shellac deal known to man – £35 for a manipedi – WTF?! They did my hair for the first time and for once it looks nice.
  3. The Good Earth – amazing Chinese restaurant. So good I wrote a blog about it.
  4. The Hope – another great pub (there’s a theme here). Iconic corner pub. The place to be on summer nights.
  5. Wandsworth Common – way classier than Clapham Common (i.e.s not full of gangs of 23year olds drinking cans and applying tanning oil like its Benidorm beach)
Dogs on wandsworth common

This year there was the first dog show on the Common at the village fair

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Oliver – the gallery – always does creative games for kids that I have genuinely joined in with

Five Nights in Marbs

Maybe its the direct flight from Manchester airport, or maybe it runs deeper than that, but when you are from the North West of England there are two summer holiday destinations that particularly call out – *The Algarve* and *Marbs*. This year, to keep with the cliche, I have been to both….

The Costa de Sol can get a bad rep – some of it is thoroughly well deserved – but there is more to this part of the world than TOWIE and Torremolinos.

Puerto Banus harbour

From a distance, Puerto Banus looks quite classy

For me Marbs has some key ingredients for a great European summer holiday that can’t be underestimated:

1. Sunshine – basically guaranteed sunshine. 30 degrees on a tap. Walking on the beach has never burned my feat so much

2. Food –  the gastro mountain village of Benahavis is brimming with quirky restaurants and art. One of the best I visited was Amanhavis – (because er…they make their own houmous and even print your name on the menu!)

3. Sea – I love a coastline and the sea is just gorgeous – whether you are into banana boating or catamaran cruises.

4. Straightforward – short hop flight, safe (unless you’re on the lash with 25 cocktail fish bowls and then you’re on your own) and you can even get a British newspaper to read on the beach

Singing Spanish men in traditional costume

Singing Spaniards in Benahavis

Solo boat from Puerto Banus to Marbella

A boat to ourselves

We stayed at the Marriot Vacation Club (you don’t have to be a member)- where there was loads to do, including loads of pools, a great gym and a short walk out to the beach where you could get a massage for 15 euros – BLISS.