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Friday night P&J invited us down to Southampton to pick up some food they bought us in France, as usual we were treated to a superb homecooked French meal. We started with rillette and a loaf of bread that Philip baked (his best yet in my opinion) and delicious crab cakes, the main dish was paupiettes de veau from Macsen's French grandmother's recipe book, which she used to cook often. They have two books with the recipe in, one written in the 1800's which simply calls for veal stuffed with farce and tied with fat to impart more flavour and to keep it moist and then cooked in its own juices; the later version of the book published in the 1930's calls for herbs, butter, and mushrooms to be added -- it's interesting to see the evolution of one of the most traditional dishes. Endive with juniper berries was alongside and much excellent wine with 3-year-aged cantal which was salty and crumbly (aged for so long it was almost like parmesan) with a nutty flavour and more bread to finish. I paid attention to every part of the cooking; I believe I am good in the kitchen, but it takes of years of practice to become as perfect at it as they are which is a reason to look forward to becoming older. For Sunday lunch Macsen cooked a boeuf bourguignon with beef they brought back from the butcher in Luçon and we returned home late last night with our gastronomic goods: fleur de sel de guérande, pain d'epices au miel, merguez (lamb sausages), vendéen honey (forêt), chorizo fort, gros sel, beurre demi-sel (from a small producer, pretty fleur-de-lys design printed into the butter), danette, chocolate, shallots, dijon, cornichon, 21-month aged comté, 3yr cantal, and fresh chilies from their garden.

On a sadder note Jackie has been suffering terribly from the side-effects of her cancer meds, they have been leeching the calcium from her bones so she's enduring constant pain and has difficulty walking. At first they weren't sure what was causing it, but when they went to France for 5 days she forgot her medication in the UK so she went to a pharmacist in France to replace what she could; she couldn't remember the name of one of the meds, only that it started with an "A" so the pharmacist told her to come behind the counter to browse the medications to see if anything looked familiar (I can't imagine them doing that in the UK or America!) One of the meds was going to cost €150, but the pharmacist said she would be able to get through 5 days without it so she didn't purchase it. Suddenly once the meds were out of her system she was able to walk with ease and without pain so when she returned to the UK she made the doctor change her medication to one that was less debilitating. Unfortunately, just today she was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disorder and will have to have a hip replacement surgery. It seems that her afflictions are relentless lately, I wish more than anything that I could take her pain away.

paupiettes de veau

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the old french cookbook, 1800's version I believe

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margaux. so good.

cantal and Philip's homemade bread. you can tell it's a real French household when the cheese isn't even
taken out of the wrapper before people start cutting pieces off.

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Macsen's boeuf bourguignon

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Current Music:
Eluder - The Path Leads to the Solution
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WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

We actually bought it a few weeks ago, but I've kept quiet here until I could contact some of my close family and friends to tell them personally as I knew that they'd never forgive me if they found out about it through my journal first (now you know the reason behind my relative quietness around here lately).

We've talked about buying a house for the past few years, but with no real sense of urgency and with the average price of houses so high in this city we decided to wait (I also couldn't stop thinking about how much more the same amount of money would buy us in America). Then came this last trip to the states in July to visit my family and the separation from everyone, especially my mother and father, was the most difficult one yet. There were many tears and my mother, who lived away from me for most of my childhood and with her Lupus becoming worse, said something that affected me deeply:

"I feel like I've missed out on the first half of your life and now I feel like I am missing out on the second half."

She said it without any intended guilt, but with a quiet resignation.

When I said goodbye to my father we went alone to his studio and held each other while we cried. He said, "Something has to change, we can't do this anymore. I don't know how or what, but something."

When I returned to London in August I went into a depression with these words echoing in my head. It is why I never posted the rest of the photos or travelogue from that trip, I couldn't face it. We decided that at this point in time we are not ready to move to America; it is especially important for Macsen's work that he stays where he is for the time being and of course we have his parents to think about, his mother still struggling with breast cancer treatments. So we came to the conclusion that we needed another bedroom for family and friends to stay for longer periods of time which meant at the very least moving out of our one bedroom flat into a two bedroom one. With the housing market going as it is more people are renting over buying so rents are skyrocketing in London; we are lucky that we have a good relationship with our landlords (they've invited us over to their house for dinner on several occasions and even left us a bottle of wine when we moved in) because they could easily get several hundred pounds more for this flat now. Over the past 4 years that we've lived here they brought up raising our rent once and we declined the offer (not sure what they expected, "Oh sure, we'd love to pay more towards your mortgage!") After searching for two bedroom flats in the areas that we'd want to live we quickly realized that paying a mortgage would be cheaper than paying rent plus the associated costs. We can afford to buy and are in a strong position in the declining housing market so we decided to go for it and focused our search in an area two stops down the train line from where we are now. The area only recently received a fast train service to Waterloo and the high street is expanding; not many Londoners seem to be aware that the area has improved so much over the past few years which means that the house prices are still relatively low. I thought that we would end up searching for a long time, but once the gears started going it moved incredibly fast. We were viewing many houses at the weekends and after work on weekdays and we had a few contenders that were decent, but would require a lot of compromises. Then one of the agents told us about a house where the sellers were caught in a chain where their buyers suddenly put in a lower offer at the last minute, the agent thought that they would take an offer much lower than their asking price in order to not lose the house they wanted to buy. We viewed the house with the sellers and it was 3 large bedrooms, a dining room, 1 1/2 bathrooms, kitchen, living room, garden with shed for bikes, all wood floors, and a water softener (which is positive for me as I've had chronic dry skin and hair problems since moving to London with its extremely hard water). It was much more space than we needed, but the price was already dropped far lower than anything else smaller that we viewed and the location was perfect being only a 5 minute walk to the high street (it has a 94/100 score on, 20 mins to the train station (25 mins into centre of London), and 5 mins to the river Thames (but not in the flood plain ;) so we put in a low offer half expecting it to be rejected, which it was. However, the sellers invited us over to the house one evening for drinks and negotiations and we ended up hitting it off with them talking about life for over two hours, half forgetting the house. In the end we came to the agreement of paying 10k more which included all of the appliances, as that would enable them to buy the house that they wanted (they made it very clear that they didn't care about selling the house for profit). There was always the chance that the previous couple would come back and put in a higher offer, but the sellers said they would reject it because they couldn't trust the other couple.

Paying much less than the upper limits of our budget makes me worry less; we didn't want to fall into the trap that so many seem to when buying their first home, which is to get carried away with it being their "dream house" and barely being able to afford it (partly what has gotten the housing market into the mess it's in now). So we consider this house 1.0 and someday in the future we may sell for version 2.0, possibly in Seattle or Paris, even though this house offers virtually everything we could ever want except in a few minor and aesthetic matters (although after living in a Victorian townhouse that was converted into flats and is full of "character" I'm quite happy to live in a 60's built boxy house that doesn't have drafty bay windows, untreated floorboards, minimal insulation, and dodgy electrics). The kitchen is slightly smaller than what we wanted as we cook together so much, but Macsen's cousin builds houses and he said he would knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room for us for free. The final minus point is the house is backing onto a timber supply warehouse and we were concerned about the noise so the sellers invited us over one morning to hear it for ourselves and it was no louder than the busy road near us now which we sleep through without trouble (and the work is only for a few hours during daytime anyway). The warehouse can never be razed to make way for any other commercial use as it was written into the land registry in the 1700's that the land can't be used for anything other than a timber merchants or residential dwellings, so if we wanted to sell anything from our house it would have to be timber-related (maybe I will take up carpentry. ;) Despite these minor things the house is far better than anything else we found on the market and while we considered waiting for a few more months for the house prices to drop even further we thought this was a rare opportunity, plus there are problems with our neighbours that have hastened our need to move. There are two flats below ours and the man who bought the back flat works nights so he comes home at 12am and parties until 7am on the weekends which means we've been camping out in our living room every weekend for the past 2 months (we've asked him to keep the noise down on many occasions and he was always apologetic and turned it down for awhile, but it would always creep back up as the night wore on) and the people in the front flat smoke and due to the thin floorboards with no insulation their cigarette smoke comes up into our livingroom which has given me a cough and sore throat for months as a result. Needless to say we are so ready to get out of here. We will have close neighbours in the new house as well as it is terraced (nearly all houses in London are in terraced buildings, it is very rare to find fully detached houses here and if you do they are considerably more expensive), but the sellers assured us that they have known them for 10 years and they were friendly and quiet; they promised to throw a party to introduce all of us. That is not the only kind thing the sellers have done for us, they also offered us money to help us buy furniture when we move in simply because they liked us and appreciated us being honest. Just when I was getting comfortable in my cynicism about people, too. When we move in we intend to have them over for dinner, it's a good feeling to know that we already have friends in our new area.

Everything has felt right about this house. I'm happy to be pragmatic for a first home, but I've also followed my gut instinct and heart on this one and everything seems to be falling easily into place. After doing the numbers we discovered that the savings we'll be making on council tax (it's in a cheaper band), parking permit, storage, heating and water costs, etc. we'll only be paying £150 more a month than we do now for considerably more space, a better area, and the knowledge that it's ours. We are set to move sometime in December (Jean-Pierre has insisted on coming up from France to help us move again) and already many of my friends and family are planning to come over from America to stay with us next year, I love that I'm going to get quality time with them again. There's always the slight possibility that it could fall through between now and then, but for the first time in a long time I am feeling very positive. :)

Kim Färnlund says: Haha, I love hearing this story. Sounds like a fairy tale for grown ups!
Naomi Morlan says: haha it so is, I guess we're responsible adults now.. I can't believe I own bricks and mortar now and *nice* bricks and mortar! :)

Current Music:
Koss - air / MW point (137E35 mix)
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Passing this on as it has now gone public... it is gorgeous.

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I didn't mean to leave this long before posting again, this month ended up being much busier than expected with searching for a house to buy and other events (including my birthday which I spent with friends in Oxford and ate at Benares, which I may write more about at a later date). I returned from a wonderful trip in America in late July, one that I am sure to remember for the rest of my life. Since then we've had intermittent net access thanks to our provider which finally seems to be fixed, but beyond that I've felt a little reluctant to return to the online world. Perhaps I've just needed a break or maybe it is something more than that, but I do want to document this most memorable trip here.
I loved spending time in Seattle, the city will always be close to my heart. We were able to meet up with friends and ate some excellent food (thank you to those who message/emailed me recommendations; we weren't able to get through all of them on this trip, but I will be returning on my own more often in the future so now I will know where to go!) The city is so damn photogenic so it gets its own post, I will post about the rest of the trip in the next few days. I hope that all of you have had a good summer so far, I look forward to catching up. :)

We stayed at Hotel Max as we lucked across a good deal. It had a high hipster quotient, which I guess should be expected, and it seemed to be full with random touring bands. The decor was somewhat bizarre and like most fashion hotels it was more style over function, but overall the beds were comfy and the rooms quiet which is all we need. The lobby with the painting of the nude couple could have been elegant, but then they had to go and ruin with it with the wall pictured below the cut. ;)

Hotel Max

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We had some pretty superb sounding recommendations for breakfast places, but none of them were within walking distance of our hotel so we settled on Lola just by looking at the menu in passing. It turned out to be such a good find that we ate there again the next morning and even for dinner before our flight back to London. I like to watch the expression on people's faces when I tell them about the octopus and belly pork dish, "octopus, for breakfast!?" but it was seriously delicious. The omelette was packed with crab and the sausages as dense as the ones from Lincolnshire.

Philip & Jackie on our first morning in Seattle, they didn't look nearly this perky by the last day of our trip.

pacific octopus, belly pork, giant beans, green garlic, ramps, sunny egg ~ dungeness crab
and fontina cheese omelette with pork-maple sausage, mashed garlic-fried potatoes, toast

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elegantly attired French woman strolling through Pioneer Square

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Thank you to interimlover for recommending Matt's in the Market for dinner; the food and service were excellent. The head waiter sat us down at a table near the door, but he didn't appear satisfied with this so he offered us cocktails while we waited for a better table near the window overlooking the market (at first the Londoner side of me thought this might be a ploy to get us to spend money on cocktails while making it sound as though they were free, but I was pleasantly surprised that they weren't on the bill). My scallops were perfectly cooked and Jackie's octopus in charmoula was probably the best dish of the meal. The red wine was memorable and I searched for a bottle to take back to Jean-Pierre to attempt to prove to him that good wine exists outside of France, but it proved impossible to find. The one thing that's always difficult for us to get used to in American restaurants is how quickly people eat and leave, this is an alien concept to most Europeans. We are very used to spending many hours talking and eating a meal and even though the restaurant was full when we arrived we ended up being the last people to finish; the staff were very good to us and not impatient at all, they sat at a table nearby and enjoyed drinks with their friends while they waited.

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piquillo rellenos - salt cod, potato, olive oil, piquillo peppers, chimichurri ~
seared sea scallops, potato-fennel-leek hash, piquillo pepper-jamon serrano vinaigrette

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I finally got to see the Rem Koolhaas desgined Seattle Public Library in person and once again it was an example of style over function in parts, but overall I loved it (even if it's confusing as hell and Philip and I got lost when we went off exploring). Also they really should have reconsidered using metal for the staircases as I was wearing shoes with wooden heels and I was acutely aware of my every clanging step echoing through the building.

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slow roasted leg of lamb, preserved lemon marmalade
~ tagine of naturally raised goat, dates, pistachio, cinnamon flatbread

The tagines were incredibly good; my goat dish in particular which fell off the bone.
As good as the homecooked tagines I ate in Morocco.

Current Music:
Vaccine - Disappearing Acts
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Photos from last summer in France.

Mme. Augustine Guérin of Vix and her slightly unsettling garden of curiosities.

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Vendée ham and mogette ~ langoustines with homemade mayonnaise

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Jackie buying fresh garlic and looking pretty happy about it.

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grilled garlic and pepper monkfish

garden grown tomatoes and green beans with roast pink veal

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perrier tranche ~ caramel with fleur de sel and pistachio ice cream... omg!

This may come as a surprise, but I only eat meat maybe once or twice a week and on special occasions, the rest of the time I happily live on pulses, fruits, and vegetables. The beef dish above is one of the few meat dishes standing between me and vegetarianism, it is that good. (Not sure if I could ever go all the way vege, the meat dishes I love I really, really love.) It is made by the local butcher in Luçon who bought the butcher shop from the previous owner only on the pretext that he be given the secret recipe and method on how it is made. The process is so lengthy that the butcher only makes it once a year, the most that I know is that it is slow cooked in vegetable stock multiple times and pressed with gelatin and salt until it melts on the tongue as soon as you put in your mouth. It is seriously good and the last two years that we were lucky enough to be there when he made his annual batch the entire block disappeared within minutes, there is no "saving some for later", it is impossible to stop until every last bit is gone.

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Pyrénées pasta and pistachio pesto (bought when we were in Sicily) with squid, octopus,
mussels, and langoustines in a fresh tomato and basil sauce.

I have fond memories of this dish.

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a selection of patisserie

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Current Music:
Brian Eno & David Byrne - America Is Waiting
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"Disaster Area My Bloody Valentine: A plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones, they are generally held to be not only the loudest rock band in the Galaxy, but in fact the loudest noise of any kind at all. Regular concert goers judge that the best sound balance is usually to be heard from within large concrete bunkers some thirty-seven miles from the stage, while the musicians themselves play their instruments by remote control from within a heavily insulated spaceship which stays in orbit around the planet – or more frequently around a completely different planet." - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The first time I heard My Bloody Valentine I was about 11-12 years old, fresh off the island. Gael took a job at the only good record shop in town, The Business, which was owned and run by Brett Lundsford (Phil Elvrum and Karl Blau frequently worked and performed there as well as other musicians). He made it his goal to showcase as much obscure music to our sleepy little town as possible and for that I will always be grateful. One day Gael brought home a battered looking store preview copy of Loveless and being attracted to the lush colours I listened to it; tentatively at first, and then louder and louder. When we opened The New Bohemian Coffee House we played it often and were constantly asked, "Who is this?" by musically hungry customers and friends (like Brett I think we did our own part on helping to musically educate the town). I searched out more of MBV's back catalogue and they became part of the soundtrack for my teen years. I was too young to get into most venues to see them live the first time around, which in retrospect might have been a good thing -- deafness not being high on my list of life priorities. ;)

I had given up any hope of hearing new material by them or seeing them live a long time ago, but when I heard they were playing two shows in London I couldn't believe my luck to be living here. Of course as soon as the tickets went on sale there was a mad rush, including many people flying over from the states and others buying tickets for every single night, so I wasn't able to secure tickets for the first two dates; I blinked and they were gone and I was heartbroken. Fortunately they extended their tour by several days and I scored tickets for their second to last London date. My tickets arrived in the mail 7 months ago and normally I don't advocate wishing time away, but it felt like June couldn't arrive fast enough.

When we arrived at the Banksy-adorned Roundhouse in Camden a woman at the entrance was handing out earplugs, "You'll need them!" she said in her most motherly tone. I had warnings about the loudness from friends who attended the previous nights, but it's difficult to grasp the exact ear-splitting nature of it until you experience it. Quite a few people, men trying to be macho mostly, declined the earplugs and they later looked like they regretted it as their held their heads in agony.

Graham Coxon from Blur opened and MBV took their time coming out, but when they did they looked as though they had been preserved in amber. Bilinda was as adorable as ever and that's one crush still going strong (for some reason I never had a crush on Kevin -- strange how that works. ;) Normally I try to get as close to the stage as possible, but anticipating the noise we stood near the centre against the mixing desk rail and I think it was a good choice, as much as I would have liked to see them closer. They didn't acknowledge the audience for most of the show, instead to seemingly be in their own private world, but within the first few notes of I Only Said I knew I was in the right place. My God, just being enveloped in that sound. I found the best way to listen was with the earplugs halfway in; too deep and all I could hear was a deep rumble and no melody, too far out and it was a painful aural assault. By the time the room was fully packed in I had difficulty seeing the stage at all, they need to hand out periscopes to anyone 5' 5" or below at gigs! I was happiest when I stopped trying to the see the stage and instead closed my eyes and danced; MBV are surprisingly danceable live, I was sweaty (er, glowing!) and exhausted by the end of the show.

The setlist was practically perfect and I enjoyed the dreamy videos and light shows, loved the videos for Blown a Wish, To Here Knows When, and Thorn in particular. Through the dense noise the songs would emerge, gripping in their familiarity, even with the vocals mixed so low that they were virtually another instrument. The intense finale was You Made Me Realise which mainly consisted of excruciatingly loud white noise and feedback which we timed at 24-minutes (the time varied on each night); I saw pieces of the ceiling come down, people covered their ears in a mixture of intense pleasure/pain, after the first 5 minutes people started to look around at each other in bewilderment and laughing, after 10 minutes it began to force people to either leave or go into a meditative state to cope, some raised their arms in either appreciation or for mercy. I pushed in my earplugs as deep as a babelfish and I'm certain it translated the secrets of the universe to me; by the end of the 24-minutes I felt transported and was trembling. It was as if they were saying, "Hi, we've discovered the sound of the apocalypse and we're going to ensure it's the last thing you ever hear." Having thoroughly molested our cochleas Kevin, Bilinda, Colm, and Debbie slowly walked off the stage without a word, leaving us shaken and unsure what we just experienced.

There aren't many bands I would risk deafness for, normally I'm critical of artists who rely on excessive volume and I think it can be a sign of arrogance or self-indulgence at the expense of enjoyment to the listener (as my Finnish metalhead friend said when told about the noise, "What's the point of that? I like to hear the melody."), but this really was an incredible experience and completely worth it. I've read in the past that Shields said he uses loud volume, "because we know that once you get above one hundred decibels, that causes a physical change in people. Endorphins get get released into the system because the body can sense imminent damage." I believe it now and I've actually come around to the idea that something like that can actually be good and enjoyable, I'm not sure anyone but My Bloody Valentine could have convinced me otherwise. I liked this review from Echoes and Dust regarding the noise:

"And, of course, MBV do loud. Just amazingly loud. It’s a sustained and brutal sonic assault. The effect in the crowd is to be completely enveloped by sound – it takes on a perceptible physical presence around you, you exist within it and as part of it. It’s claustrophobic and frightening and astonishing. It induces waves of nausea, it does things to the internal organs you know instinctively aren’t good and sometimes it just fucking hurts but, by God, you wouldn’t be anywhere else.
There’s much talk of earplugs before MBV take the stage (packs are given away free by the organisers) and, during the apocalyptic 30 minute white-noise demolition of ‘You Made Me Realise’, it’s clear why. As you wear them and MBV bludgeon you from afar, you come to realise that, outside of that 3cm-long piece of silicon wedged in your ear, there exists a seriously hostile environment, a place utterly inhospitable to the human ear. It’s the aural equivalent of running on the surface of Mars in a perilously flimsy spacesuit. Carrying scissors. It is utterly exhilarating.

You Made Me Realise feedback excerpt. Funniest video on the internet.

I originally didn't intend to write very much about this concert as I can't do it justice with words, but once I started writing I couldn't stop. I hear and understand their music differently now and I love it even more, which I didn't think was possible. Listening to MBV on the train ride home, with my eardrums still vibrating, I knew I would never experience something like that again. I spent most of the day after recovering from a throbbing headache, but I didn't regret it one bit.

Most of the videos from the gig are hilarious in their futile attempts to capture anything but sonic sludge, but the links point to a few who managed to do a decent job. Pitchfork gives the best review I've read so far.


I Only Said
When You Sleep
(When You Wake) You're Still in a Dream
You Never Should
Lose My Breath
Come In Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Blown A Wish
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise (Holocaust Version)

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Current Music:
My Bloody Valentine - Feed Me with Your Kiss
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Gael is back in Italy after her all too brief visit. I know I have a few new people reading this journal so if you don't know who Gael is and what she means to me read this: Tui Bijoux. The time passed far too quickly, but it was wonderful seeing her again. Took her to Spitalfields for S&M (Sausages & Mash of course, what were you thinking?) Sadly Spitalfields Market, one of London's oldest and largest markets, was closed for "refurbishment" which actually means gentrification; not that gentrification is always a bad thing, but in this case it also means homogenizing with chain stores that are willing to pay higher rent and encroachment of office buildings. It's still better than the alternative which was ASDA (owned by Wal-Mart) attempting to buy the land and raze it for one of their supermarkets. We moved on to Borough Market (which has already been gentrified, but at least the chains have stayed out) and drank hot spiced New Forest cider and stocked up on comté, caerphilly, cantillon kriek, and salted butter (getting harder to find in stores these days). Took a long walk down the river to the Tate Modern where we never made it past the bookshop and ended up spending 2 hours browsing there. The next day we wandered around Shoreditch to go hipster spotting and took her for Vietnamese food (got her hooked on chili salt and peppered squid and lotus and pork salad). The rest of the time was pretty relaxed, just catching up as we hadn't seen each other in person for nearly 2 years. We share a similar sense of humour so we watched as many episodes of Peep Show, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, 15 Storeys High, and Mighty Boosh as we could. It was picnic weather - intermittently - so on her last day here we enjoyed a picnic in Richmond Park, the first of the year. She commented, "It looks like the illustrations in fairytale books." which made me laugh because it was the first thing I said when I saw the forests here, you get the strange feeling that you've seen these trees before. After indulging ourselves we fell asleep in the shade, me under my big floppy hat which I seem to never get to wear (I think I wore the same dress on the last picnic I wrote about here, I guess it is now my official picnic dress). As always it was difficult to say goodbye to each other, but I will most likely visit her in Naples next.

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I love Cantillon Kriek as it is tart like pie cherries, not sweet at all unlike most krieks.
I only had it once before at the brewery in Brussels, but the beer stall in Borough Market have
begun stocking it.

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this ginger beer is so good -- very fiery.

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A little-known fact about south west London where I live is that we have a flock of about 30,000 wild green ring-neck parakeets. I often see them in our backyard or hanging out in the trees at the beer garden of our local pub. There are various theories as to how they came to live and flourish in this area of the city: As The African Queen was being filmed at Shepperton Studios in the 50s they released hundreds into the air (indigenous species awareness not being what it is today), Jimi Hendrix released his breeding pair on Carnaby Street in the 60s, they're castaways from a capsized cargo ship, airport quarantine escapees, or liberated pets.

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Current Music:
Grouper - Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping
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dancing with dust

busy, busy, busy and Gael will be here SOON! :D

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