Friday, July 31, 2009


Last year, on my trip to Kent, I told you about discovering the lavender fields somewhere near Sevenoaks (or Threeoaks as Son calls it after the great storm in 1987.)

This year, I was really excited about driving over to Castle Farm again during my month in the UK. I wanted to stand at the edge of the field, to gaze at the purple stripes of lavender, undulating away. The first time they had made me gasp out loud when our train flew past them.

So when we landed a month ago, I looked out for them as our train sped away from London into Kent. And there they were. The tiniest hint only of the purple to come, just lines of small, round, mostly green shrubs.

Each time I caught the train to or from London, I obsessed about my seat; desperate to be on the correct side to catch the startling view of the lavender over the Downs.

Over the four weeks with each train trip it changed, ripening. I planned, tried to identify when I could get over to the Farm to stand and inhale the perfume, the view. I knew that I would take scores of pictures, all of which would look exactly the same as last year’s photos but I still wanted to get over there.

Time was running out, not just for me, but for the lavender too. I knew from last year that they would harvest at the end of July.

And then three days before I flew back to Bangkok I was on the train for the final time. I crossed my fingers and hoped that they hadn’t harvested yet; perhaps and I could get over to the farm during the weekend. I gazed out of the window, waiting for the purple fields to appear in front of me but all I saw were shrubs, rich green, in neat rows disappearing over the hill. I’d missed it.

I was a bit sad but hey, I saw them from the train. I watched them ripen over June and July.

On my last day, I went off to a car boot sale in Sissinghurst with my sister and a couple of her friends. On the way back I spotted another Kent vision. This is a disappearing-from-the-landscape vision: a field of hops.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

VIP cinema!

I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about this. (I’m always too embarrassed to get a picture taken.)

Son and I went to the cinema to see Harry Potter yesterday. The next available performance was in the VIP cinema, which means very exciting reclining seats with pillow and blanket!

Yesterday, rejecting embarrassment (there was no one in there when we planned to do it) we took a picture.

We've added a trip to the cinema (the VIP cinema) to the Must Do tourist activity list.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I know it’s wrong to have favourites.

It’s not right and proper because of how it makes the non-preferred feel but also there’s that nagging voice inside my head, the teensy weensy taunt that makes me feel guilty for 'favouriting' someone. I don’t like it.

So, for today only, I make no apologies for having a favourite ‘follower.’

My most recent follower is Simon.

Simon and I thought we met via Husband at the tailors in Bangkok where he and another colleague from London were having suits made during a week’s business trip. But after a couple of hours, several large gin and tonics (mine) and beers (Simon’s) I asked him a totally random question about his past. It was that voice again - it had been talking to my subconscious …It knew something I didn’t. Eventually my conscious caught up and it was true and I remembered him: some fifteen years earlier I had been working where Simon had been a student…

Anyway, that's not why Simon is today's favourite follower. He had a visitor in London last week, a colleague of Husband’s from Thailand. The colleague returned to the Bangkok office yesterday and sent an email to Husband, who forwarded it to me, which said: 'Simon passed me 2 packs of Tea from London for you. I have placed them on your desk.'

YAY. Thank you, Simon.

Tomorrow I shall like all my followers equally.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

It wasn't difficult.

All I had to do was take to the UK the old, falling apart luggage, dispose of them, and return with new tougher suitcases to Bangkok. We knew what we wanted and it was cheaper to buy them in the UK. Simple, eh?

But something went wrong.

And no, it wasn’t the obvious thing of not making it home with falling to pieces bags. Even though string and sellotape held our baggage together en route to the UK we felt most lucky and relieved not to have had them explode, spewing books and knickers over Heathrow's carousel.

Soon after we arrived, Son and I went off to purchase new suitcases and then we got on with having a fabulous trip. We saw lots of people, though sadly not absolutely everyone because how can we? Then it was time to think about packing again. I used to start compiling packing lists two weeks before we went away but a combination of more travelling experience, and training from Husband means that now I leave it to the last minute.

I'm still not quite sure what happened... I did start to think about packing… I gave one old case to the nieces to take on holiday but all the others I kept– just in case, y’know? It was when it became urgent for us to pack that it dawned on me that something was amiss. Clearly, our possessions had swollen or something… maybe it was the air? No matter how much I jiggered things around, or begged space in the children's cases, the stuff wasn't going in.

So in the end, some of the old suitcases had to make the return trip to Bangkok again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More cupcakes

Oh dear. A whole week? I am sorry for disappearing like that again. I’ve been off catching trains - MOST EFFICIENTLY - to Manchester, which is exactly where I wanted to go...

In Chorlton we enjoyed more cupcakery delights. We went to the Sweet Tooth Cupcakery which I highly recommend. Daughter and M had a Kylie cupcake; L and I had a gluten free chocolate cupcake with loads of icing, sprinkled with edible red glitter and a red covered chocolate heart: name unknown. Other cupcakes are known as Dita Von Teese, Johnny Cash, Barbara Cartland…

The cafĂ© is in the most unassuming (shabby) building but inside is tiny, pretty and camp. Cakes are displayed in a haberdashery cabinet: glass fronted for the customer to see in and staggered/raked drawers to show the contents of each drawer. See this blog for a review and ace pictures. I’m not sure why I didn’t take photos; it might have something to do with the delicious and decadent cup cake in front of me which was begging to be consumed. I fell instantly in love with the whole tea ceremony thing and am considering going off to buy a teapot.

I might never make tea in a mug again; so there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Alas poor Yorick...

Back in April/May, my brother, sister, sister-in-law and I began planning a birthday party for our Dad whose 80th birthday was coming up. We considered, contemplated and then…

On the invitations we told guests of our plans to make our parents a rose garden. We contacted David Austin Roses to ask if they would do us a gift list for Dad’s birthday and we decided it would be on a theme. We chose Shakespeare as our theme because Mum and Dad are a bit obsessed with him and his plays. (Every year, for as long as I can remember, my parents have holidayed in Stratford Upon Avon, watching all the current RSC productions. My mum is a drama teacher, local director and my Dad has acted in several plays.) David Austin obliged with the ‘list’ idea and we chose roses like Noble Anthony, Cordelia, Othello, Wise Portia, Falstaff and even William Shakespeare for guests to purchase if they wished.

A local woman was engaged to do the catering as our numbers were looking alarming. Instead of doing a birthday cake, my sister asked her to make cup cakes (these are all the rage, dahling.) These were the cup cakes that arrived on the day:

Of course the Toby one, I mean Yorick, was my favourite.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the interest of balanced reporting...

Husband has always read my blog. After yesterday's post - which you should probably read before this one if you haven't already - he sent me by email his own brain dump of Poole memories. He has given me permission to reproduce it here.

"Just checked your blog and I wanted to comment, saying all the special memories I have of Poole, of you bringing two wonderful babies into the world, walks along the promenade, strolling up the high street most weekends, trips to the private beach (Studland) just over from Sandbanks, our little workshops on the top floor of the house, your Amstrad, my lathe, the pew we bought at an auction, where I learned what a galley kitchen was, trying to park in our own street and using the cones to reserve a spot, having a "real" fire but in a kind of little iron house, gym membership at Racquets where we ate bigger lunches than the workout in the gym removed, ruining our new mattress by leaving it in the bedroom when they repaced the ceiling, M and T (friends), late night shopping at the garage only to re-meet the Katie as a nanny at Racquets a year later, Wimborne, our first Christmases as a family and leaving the turkey to defrost in the oven until it went off, Mothercare (we should have bought shares), planting vegetables in the second, walled garden out through the back of the shed. The poor bloke next door slowly losing himself to Alzheimer's, more basil and tomatoes than we knew what to do with. You telling me you were pregnant in the same rear garden, propping Son up for photos because he couldn't sit up yet, on that little green iron garden table set we bought in B&Q, Daughter's frogs legs as she slept. Pepper (the dog) on the beach in winter, the leaking roof, cosmetics to go, the playground in Poole park, the noise of the speedway track one evening a week, your little car crash on Ashley Road, Corfe Castle. Our first real family home with the red door and lots of stairs. "

And that, reader, is why I married him.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Becoming grown ups

Last week, on our driving trip west, I took the kids to Poole in Dorset. We had our children during the five or so years Husband and I lived there.

Son was nearly four when we moved from there and his memories extend only to our having a red front door. Last week we drove past number forty three and now the door is green; a sludgy, dull, army shade.

I have odd memories of Poole. Although we were married by then, it is where we made the transition into proper grown ups. We moved to Dorset from our university town, Hull, for Husband's second post-doctoral job.

We sold our two up two down (to a friend) and set off south. It felt a bit like coming home. We bought a three storey Edwardian town house - "big enough to sprog in" my sister said. We both went to work and then, after nearly two years in Poole, I got pregnant.

I struggled with postnatal depression through the following period. My brain has rewritten some of my memories during this phase: emotionally I don't remember it as a dark time but intellectually I know it was one of the toughest times of my life so far.

I showed the children around, remembering stories and people. It felt very strange, as though I was experiencing a vague sense of deja vu over and over again. We had fish and chips on Poole Quay, ice cream and then we went to Poole Pottery.

That was enough. I didn't know if I wanted to remember any more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Data dump

In the last five days have driven through:

  • Kent
  • Surrey
  • Hampshire
  • Wiltshire
  • Somerset
  • Wiltshire
  • Dorset
  • Wiltshire
  • Hampshire
  • Surrey
  • Middlesex
  • Greater London
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Middlesex
  • Surrey
  • Kent

We covered: 620 miles mainly on the M20, M26, M25, M3, A303, and M40.

We got lost: Three times because I thought I knew better than my sister’s sat nav. Let’s be honest, Sat Nav, when it comes to the route to Shepton Mallet, I really did know better… (turn right on to A344 at Stonehenge, drive through Chitterne.) I do, however, accept that you would’ve found your way two miles to the M40 from Bicester instead of going all the way to Aylesbury on the A41 as I did.

I narrowly avoided hitting: a deer between Dorchester and Warminster at 9.30pm and a very large coach doing something silly outside my children’s old primary school in Buckinghamshire at 3.30pm.

My favourite bit of motorway: was on the M40 between High Wycombe and Bicester, where I saw about 15 red kites in two days.

My favourite scenery: was looking over North Dorset while driving past Compton Abbas airfield from Shaftesbury, not on the A350 but from the B3081. Completely stunning: I wondered if I will go back to Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back soon

I’m off traipsing around the country but I’ll be back here at the weekend…

See you soon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

And then...

Next, Toby the skeleton went to medical school with my Dad.

Dad had been a year ahead at school which meant that when he finished his Higher School Certificate (as it was) he was too young for National Service. He went off to medical school (and did his National Service as a newly qualified doctor.)

Dad had been set to follow Bing to the Middlesex, but the then government had promised all soldiers returning from WW2 priority over university places. So Dad took Toby, who had a full set of teeth in those days, to Charing Cross medical school in 1948, the same year as the NHS was born.

In the early 70s, Toby’s box was brought out again as my brother took him back to Charing Cross medical school.

During the 80s I took Toby to school to draw him; he modelled for my A Level in art (he kept wonderfully still). I took him into my children’s primary school and finally in the late 90s, I took Toby to Art College where I used him in the metal workshop to learn how the equipment was used.

In between times, Toby has lived in my father’s study. He sits, separate from the rest of his bones, on Dad's desk. Whatever the provenance of this chap, however his skeleton came to be sold, since he’s lived in our family, he’s been shown only the greatest respect.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I’m continuing the medical theme here today.

This is Toby.

Toby was a male of about 17 or 18 and family history reports that he was probably from Russia or France. Of course there are no guarantees that the whole skeleton belonged to one person but the long bones and the sutures in the skull inform us of his approximate age. The pelvis identifies his gender. All medical students are required a half skeleton though now they are man made and not real ones.

Toby is almost a member of our family. He was purchased as half a skeleton from Adam, Rouilly in the early 1930s for the start of Cousin Bing’s medical degree at the Middlesex Hospital. Albert Vivian (“Bing”) Stevens (he could sing like his namesake) is from my Welsh family. He qualified in 1939, joined up and went straight to France in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Cousin Bing was awarded the Military Cross for a string of acts of bravery recorded in Dunkirk. It was only after he died that we discovered he had also been awarded an OBE for work to alleviate disease during the Bengal famine. He never spoke about it.

After Bing died in 1997, the Imperial War Museum contacted his widow, Margaret, to ask if they might be able to have the personal papers relating to the time in Calcutta.

Next, Toby the skeleton went…

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Thanks to everyone who sent positive wishes after my odd (and cryptic) post on Monday. The medical procedure wasn’t mine to blog about but I’m glad to say that nothing nasty was found. There is one more test to exclude all other issues.

Being a doctor’s daughter (also a doctor’s sister and doctor’s cousin) I’ve spent my youth surrounded by medical matters. Dinner time conversations were colourful and graphic enough to make many a guest wilt at our table. I’ve always loved medical dramas, and get terribly over-excited when I diagnose before the doctors do. (I specialise in identifying Weil’s Disease, Munchausen’s by proxy and Leukaemia which appear to be favourites in medical soaps.)

My Dad’s speciality was endoscopy. You can, if you are strong of stomach, look here but it might be enough to know that it is looking into the body, in my Dad’s case, through a natural opening, *coughs* using an endoscope, a thin bendy tube with a light source that projects what it sees onto a screen for the doc to diagnose.

But, and maybe no-one’s very good at this, we’re not terribly cool or calm when it comes to our own health. Maybe we know too much.

Anyway, thank you for your thoughts; they really helped.