Friday Fun for the holidays

Good morning. The school holidays are here (or have been here for a week already) and thus it is properly holiday time. From tomorrow, I will be existing in a tent in Mablethorpe for a week, at one of those Christian summer conferences where everyone pretends they’re ok with camping, when really they’d rather be in a hotel. To give myself the impression that I’m going somewhere more exotic, I’ve been taking delight in a collection of old school travel posters – from the days when holidays really meant something.

HK Riveria Poster

Tasmania Poster

Japanese Railways poster

It’s appropriate that the last poster advertises railways (though without a train in sight!) as there is – of course – some TfL fun today too. When on holiday, it’s always a good idea to think back to your usual commute and gloat over the fact that you don’t have to do it for a while. Thus, it’s quite appropriate to feature some photos of people using the tube in days gone by this morning…

This collection of photos comes from the heady days of the 1980’s when the tube was a different world – people could drink [the alcohol ban seems much older than 2008], smoke, and generally behave in a way that I think tube users of the new millennium would find odd.

Jumping ticket gates

Booze on the tube

Photographer photographed

Stockwell Clock head

Another classic element of the summer holidays was the special holiday editions of comics (in our household that meant Bunty, obviously). This week, I’ve discovered a classic comic/animation, not necessarily suitable for small children, but incredibly educational – the history of the Guardian newspaper in cartoon form. (If you click on the play button in that link, it will unfold before your eyes.)

An illustrated history of the GuardianIt gets more interesting than this, promise! 

Finally, because it’s summer and, let’s face it, all Brits have had a moment of wishing they could go to an American summer camp, here’s the first episode of classic MTV show Bug Juice – classic summer camp fun and classic 90’s fashion…

Lessons learnt in the heat wave

Officially, THE HEAT WAVE broke yesterday in a cacophony of thunder. In reality, we’re still enjoying temperatures in the mid 20’s – still something of an English heat wave, but less extreme than nearly 3 weeks of weather during which I covered my arms just once.

Doing my best to maintain the belief that the British are obsessed with the weather, I will share with you what this delightful period of time has taught me…

1. Never under-estimate the power of a humble gel ice pack, especially the small ones. You can tuck them practically anywhere – from a cool box to a handbag and even down a bra. Yes, a bra. Hot in the evening thanks to a Victorian building that retains heat? Cool down with one or two gel packs secured in your bra. Honestly, it works a treat.

2. The up-do is essential. Stupidly, I forgot this lesson at the wedding I went to, but ever since that horribly hot, sweaty hair day, I’ve ignored my own vanity and put the hair away. The best one involves two french plaits, intertwined with hairpins securing them. It looks awesome (IMHO) and people think it’s a lot more complicated than it actually is.

Hot up-do

3. Make the most of the time when it’s coolest. In my flat, I’ve been awoken by the sun in my greenhouse of a bedroom at 6.45am every morning. For several days last week, this provided an ideal opportunity to clean – an activity that was unthinkable in the heat of the evening. (Even with gel packs in place.) It’s amazing what you can achieve by 9.30, when a sleepy looking teenage lodger appears…

4. Take care when choosing where to sit in the park. Living the classic London life of no garden, I have to make the most of local parks and squares. Thing is, some very strange people also do the same. Like the man a couple of weeks ago, who spent several hours in Lincoln’s Inn Fields wearing just a pair of very unattractive white pants. Why? Why?? WHY???

White Pants ManI was respecting his privacy & your eyes by not zooming in. At times he was facing towards me – too, too much!

5. Sleeping becomes a chore, not a joy. What with the heat and the early, strong sun, sleeping has not been easy or fun – which is sad, when you like your sleep as much as I do. The Guardian suggested putting your pillow in the fridge, but mine (like most sane people’s) was too full of cold beverages and vegetables.

6. Specifically, my fridge contained cans of Diet Coke and jugs of iced tea (Suki tea’s Mango Tango, to be precise). The worst part of a heat wave is the inability to imbibe caffeine in its usual hot form, thus cold, refreshing alternatives need to be sought.

7. Ice your traditional summer beverages. I have developed a Pimm’s slushie – like the traditional jug, but icier. It’s super simple: make your Pimm’s & lemonade mix; pour it into a ziplock bag; place in freezer; remove a few hours later and bash it a bit; serve with fruit, cucumber & mint. I also had some divine frozen G&T at a friend’s house this week – it’s a little more complicated as it involves sugar syrup, but worth googling.

Pimm's SlushiePimm’s slushie. 

8. Find a beach, soak up the sun and drink some cold wine. I chose Wapping. Yes, Wapping…

Canary Wharf from the beachFor the two hours preceding low-tide, there’s a viable beach at the bottom of the river steps next door to my friends’ building. They’ve been enjoying wine there for weeks – Monday was my first visit. It did not disappoint. 

9. Ensure you have some excellent friends with whom to have fun in the sun. Fortunately, I had lots – both fun and friends.

Statue Game dung beetleStatue game fun at Zoo Lates.

10. Finally, make the most of it. You’ve no idea just how long a heat wave is going to last. I’m hopeful this isn’t the last we’ll see of temperatures around the 30C mark, but you never know…

July Bucket List

Tomorrow is July 1st.
Tomorrow is also the last day of class for this academic year. (I know it sounds odd to be finishing on a Monday, but that’s what happens when you only have classes on a Monday.)

It could not come soon enough. This term has been insane as far as deadlines go – a whole four of them, three before half-term. The last essay went in on Friday and gosh, it felt good! [What felt a little less good was the reaction to an email from college asking why so many of us had handed in that essay when they weren’t expecting it till September… We were just obeying the deadline schedule, but if we’ve got another 2 months, I’ll happily re-write it!]

What I am currently in great need of is some freedom from the library, some space to read non-theological books, ample time for guilt-free tennis watching and a chance to catch up with some neglected friends.

So, being the organised person that I am, I made  a list. A bucket list, if you will, of activities that could do with being completed before the church decamps to Mablethorpe in late July. Some are downright tedious – like cleaning my room and filing notes that have not been filed since 2011 – others are utterly frivolous and are on the list to sweeten it.

July bucket listYes, that’s ‘West Wing’. No, I haven’t. Yes, I should have. 

One item that I’ve just had to add to the list, as I’ve realised I’d missed it off, is writing. I’m behind on this blog and I’m behind on  articles for two other publications and I don’t like being tardy.

In essence what I’m saying is: “Hello life, I’ve missed you. Please welcome me back with open arms!”

The curse of summer birthdays?

I am 30.
I am still alive.
It didn’t hurt and there were no tears. Life goes on.

I had a great day with friends, plenty of cake (a huge quantity of cake – my colleagues are rather blessed at the moment!), delightful weather, a free musical, several raucous hours of karaoke and lots and lots of love from a whole host of people. I was very lucky.

Oh, and a group of friends joined together in organising quite an epic birthday present. I am now the proud owner of my very own Dave Walker original.

Thanks Dave, for agreeing to do – it will be hung with pride in my new flat.

Having a birthday in the height of summer is, in many ways, a great thing. There’s a good chance of good weather – kind of. Often, you’re away on holiday and you get to celebrate in exotic locations. (That’s the theory at least, last year’s was celebrated in Shepton Mallet.) It’s perfectly acceptable not to go to work and you never had to go to school on your birthday.

However, there are some negatives, primarily the fact that summer = holiday time. Without fail, many of those you’d like to celebrate with you will be on holiday. I wonder if this is why me & my sister tended to have joint parties growing up? Perhaps our parents were hoping we wouldn’t notice the smaller number of guests? (In fact, we may have often had these parties just before school broke up.) It’s also wedding season and the last weekend in July is a very popular one for nuptials. Plus, in the Methodist world, it’s the time that ministers move house. My sister suffered more from this one – our parents twice moved house the day before her birthday (including their move to Ireland). Celebrating your birthday in a city you’ve just moved to, having left behind all your friends, more than sucks. Then there’s the British education system which dictates that summer-borns are the youngest in their year, putting them at an academic disadvantage which research suggests is not overcome until age 12…

Perhaps the pros outweigh the cons. The weather is a definite bonus, as are the holidays. Absent friends give one the excuse for multiple celebrations and people buy you birthday drinks well into the autumn. Plus, having a major present-giving occasion mid-way through the year handily divides up the months between Christmas. I guess it’s less of a curse and more of a blessing.

Sacrificing my feet to the shoe gods (Updated)

Oh summer, I love thee, but my feet aren’t quite ready for you yet.

This is what’s left of my feet after a week of spring weather; one new pair of shoes; breaking in last year’s sandals all over again and the introduction of tinted moisturiser to lessen the glare of my pasty pins in the sun.

Ouch. The pain – both physical and emotional (embarrassment).

Update: 24 hours after posting this, my feet are in a far sorrier state. The shoes in the above photo are my ‘office’ shoes – only to be worn outside during lunchtime expeditions. Tonight I accidentally walked for over 2 hours in them (I couldn’t be bothered to change into my trainers), walking all the way to London Bridge from the office. I walked my feet raw, quite literally. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.