Tag Archives: London

P is for pho

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Often people ask me what I miss most about not living in London any more, and the answer’s always the same. There’s the people we left behind of course, but actually in some ways the physical distance between us now means that we make more effort to see the people who really matter. It’s amazing how knowing someone’s only half an hour away can turn into an excuse not to see them yet the opposite becomes true when meeting up’s a real mission.

But I digress. The thing I really miss about not living in London any more is the food. It’s not like there’s not good food in Devon: the potential for really fresh, really local ingredients is of course much higher than in the city. But without the melting pot of cultures that I used to feel privileged to be a part of, our menu is much more limited.

Where we used to live in London we were surrounded by fantastic Vietnamese restaurants. There was a big Turkish community too, so the kebabs were out of this world. Not to mention the Punjabi lamb chops at Tayyabs, the Sunday dim sum at Yi Ban, the Argentinian steak at Buen Ayre and the special-occassion sushi at Soseki.

It’s Vietnamese food I always seek out first when we go back though. There’s something about the fresh herbs, the slippery noodles, the seafood. And I especially love pho. It’s like the best sort of comfort food, warming and flavourful and healthy. I miss the ritual of the little plate of basil and bean sprouts and chilli, alternating spoons of broth with digging around with chopsticks for more substantial morsels of deliciousness.

When we were on honeymoon in Vietnam I had it for breakfast every day. We’ve tried to recreate it ourselves to varying degrees of success, but without the authentic ingredients it’s never quite the same. The bowl above was devoured moments after the photo was taken in Tre Viet, a restaurant I’d heartily recommend if ever you find yourself hungry on Mare Street.

P is for pho.

 

Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast. 

London Fields

Before we moved to Devon, I’d been in London for sixteen years. I lived, worked and studied all over the city, but it was when I moved to Hackney that I knew I’d found my London: the place in that sprawling metropolis that felt like home.

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We still have a flat in London Fields – one of my best friends lives there now, but it’s been ages since we’ve made it over to that part of town. So as part of our adventures last weekend we thought we’d go back to our old manor to take a stroll.

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We wandered through the park, down Broadway Market towards the canal. As an area it’s constantly changing – it has been for as long as I’ve known it – but its spirit remains the same. A vibrant mix of people and cultures, quirky shops and friendly bars, street art and ice cream vans and bicycles and community cricket.

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I know there are plenty of people who turn their noses up at its gentrification or self-conscious variety of cool, but there’s something about Hackney that has got under my skin. It was great to be back, to introduce Arthur to the world we were a part of before he came along. It was almost enough to make me want to move back to London. Almost.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Word of the Week: Transport

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:

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This week we travelled to London and back, and went all over the city in between. In doing so we might have broken records, I think, for the amount of different types of transport we used!

We started early on Saturday morning on the train to London, a little bit sleepy but invigorated by the view and our breakfast picnic.

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Most of the weekend was spent traversing the city by tube and bus, and on Sunday afternoon Arthur went on a miniature train on a ride in Hyde Park: I wasn’t sure what he’d make of it at first but his big cousin Ilya looked after him!

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Then on Monday we set off for a bit of an adventure. We took the tube across to Bank, then hopped on the DLR out to the Docklands. Arthur loved looking at all the tall buildings and even got to help drive the train.

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Then the highlight of the journey: we took a cable car across the river! The views were amazing, and Arthur couldn’t decide whether we were in an aeroplane or a helicopter.

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We stopped off for lunch by the MIllenium Dome, then caught a river boat back into town.

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Arthur was pretty sleepy by this point, so was happy to lie back and look at the view while he had a bit of a feed.

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The next day it was time to head home, so it was back on the big train for the journey back to Brixham. We were all very pleased to see the sea: London was lovely, but it’s just not Devon!

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Since we’ve been back Arthur has been making choo choo noises, looking out for helicopters and aeroplanes overhead and loving playing with the ride-on car he got for Christmas.

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He was particularly excited at his Music with Mummy session yesterday morning: as it happens the theme this term is transport, and with everything he’s experienced this week it suddenly all seemed to make a lot more sense…

 

The Reading Residence

 

Off the beaten track

We had a couple of hours to kill between catching up with friends in our last days in London this week, and decided to let Arthur lead the way in exploring Hyde Park.

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Predictably, he had no interest at all in sticking to the paths, and as soon as we let him go he toddled off across the grass.

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Arthur was however very interested in the dandelions and daisies that were scattered through the green, and his explorations were punctuated by cries of ‘rose’ – the word he has adopted as a generic term for flowers. When I picked him a dandelion he was intrigued at first, but left me feeling a bit guilty when his next instinct was to try to reattach it to the stalk… He also naturally tried to taste it, though I don’t think he was too impressed.

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He really enjoyed being set free to choose where to wander, with barely a backward glance to check we were following him. I think he knew we were close behind though, and he soon let us know when he was done with exploring. He relinquished his independence with outstretched arms and cries of ‘duddle’ ready to come back into the sling and continue our journey together across the park.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

A Secret Playground

I seem to be developing a bit of a talent for leaving Devon just when the weather picks up and the thought of being by the sea holds particular allure. However we haven’t done a bad job of making the most of the weather here in London, and over the weekend we discovered an awesome little playground in Hyde Park where Arthur had a brilliant time hanging out with his cousins.

The playground they introduced us to was crafted in oak by sculptor Dan Cordell. It is beautiful to look at, hidden away by some tennis courts near the Albert Memorial. More importantly though it has been built in the perfect scale for little people to explore independently. Arthur loved the little slides with their wide, rounded steps, and though Leigh and I hovered over him we were impressed at how confident he was at navigating them all by himself.

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Most of all though it was great for Arthur to be able to hang out with his cousins. They were so excited to see him, and even though Arthur was still struggling with his teeth and a bit of a bug they did a very impressive job of distracting him for a while at least. At the groups we go to back home he’s started to become quite fascinated with the older kids, though the feeling is rarely reciprocated. It was lovely to watch him play with older children who were just as interested in him as he was in them, and to watch the beginnings of what will hopefully be lifelong friendships with his London cousins.

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Back on the train

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while will know that the train is most definitely my favourite way to travel. So when the storms that battered the UK earlier this year took out the train line in Dawlish, effectively cutting Devon and Cornwall off from the rest of the UK, I was pretty gutted.

It wasn’t just the inconvenience of it all, though we did have a couple of mightily stressful trips to London with Arthur in the car as a result. And though it felt a little strange, as a non-driver, to have no alternative without the help of Leigh or my parents but a long and not terribly comfortable coach journey to get out of the county, that wasn’t what bothered me most either. The thing was that I loved that train line. I’ve travelled by train all over the world, and rarely if ever have I come across such a spectacular stretch of track: as the train passed through the red cliffs, alongside the sea which was some days millpond calm, others alive with waves and spray, you knew you that there could not be many better places on the planet to be.

At first there were doubts as to whether the line would ever be restored. The damage was severe: Brunel’s sea wall had disintegrated leaving the tracks hanging like a jungle rope walk above the waves below. There was talk of the line being diverted, of giving in to the forces of nature and accepting that such a stunning journey just wasn’t meant to be. For a while I entertained the idea that I might never travel on that route again. Fortunately, though, the pessimism was unfounded.

By some miracle, the railway engineers managed to get the damage fixed and the line back up and running in just eight weeks. And so it was that for our journey up to London this weekend we were back on the train.

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As we left Newton Abbot I was full of anticipation for the views that lay ahead, and the day did not disappoint. On the way to Exeter we once again passed through those majestic red cliffs, past boats resting on the mud at low tide, travelled alongside the sea which this time was millpond calm.

Arthur appreciated the views too – he was a bit too young to notice them last time we made the journey, but this trip he was pointing out the boats and water. Most of all though he appreciated being close to me and Leigh: he’s not 100% right now, with five teeth coming through as well as a nasty cough. What he needed most of all were cuddles – and those are always a bit tricky to provide when he’s strapped up in the back seat of the car.

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So hurrah for the railway engineers and for the newly-restored Dawlish line. I may have always loved it, but I have also taken its precarious existence a little more for granted than I probably should. From now on I will definitely appreciate it a whole lot more every time we’re lucky enough to make that journey.

Happy to be home

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks here – last week saw us heading up to London for my first author reading event, and then this weekend we were in Cardiff for the rugby. Both were brilliant trips: travelling with Arthur is a bit more of a mission than it used to be, but it’s always worth making the effort to catch up with family and friends. However as I sit here now, tapping at the keyboard with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest and looking out over Torbay, there is no doubt that I’m very happy to be home.

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This photo was actually taken last Thursday on our first day back in the bay after the London trip. We were on our way to Arthur’s fab baby music class up at Lupton House and as we were making uncharacteristically good time were able to stop for a stroll on Breakwater beach. The tide was low, revealing a huge expanse of pebbles and sand, and the calm sea lapped gently at the shore before disappearing into the mist. There was a man walking up and down with a metal detector – an image I’ve loved since my childhood, so full of promise and anticipation. There were a couple of other people with children and dogs, and Arthur loved watching them all running around.

We didn’t have time to stop for long, but it was so lovely to take a few minutes to breathe in the sea air. I think Arthur presumes that everyone gets to live in such a beautiful place, but after many years living in cities since my childhood in the Welsh countryside I’m not sure I’ll ever take it for granted. 

 

Linking up with Charly Dove at PODcast for What’s the Story?