I am finally back in spain  and all my family with me, which is a huge pleasure after the last 18 months of being apart and not  being able to celebrate family birthdays and occasions.  With all my kids working or away at Uni, its been very difficult to get us all together.

September is such a lovely time to be in Andalucia, though we have had the odd downpour, but unlike London, the sun does break out and gives you a dash of warmth and glow.  the town quietens down and the beaches are filled with a scattering of people – the temperature is near perfect, around 25 C and the sea warm.  after 21 years of having our house here, we still always manage to discover new things, either through recommendations or just stumbling on things.  of course, some good things go, and some good things appear.  sadly, a lot of the amenity shopping in the old town seem to be replaced by dress shops or another restaurant.

Chiringuitos, are small bars or stands that can be seen the length of the Spanish coast, usually on the beachfront they open up during the busier holiday times and are much more affordable.  There are different types, some selling cold beverages and others that are much more elaborate and may serve meals. Some of the most typical treats on offer are paella and sardines, although the variety depends on the place .  There used to be a few stands on the beach at El Palmar, but sadly they haven’t been given their licences this past year,  apparently the restaurants complained about them taking their custom.  But there are lots of other chiringuitos on other beaches.  There is a great one on Mangueta beach, which simply barbecues fish and prawns and serves with salad, and a couple further down nearer to the lighthouse of Trafalgar, El Nia and Faro Beach.   another fun vibrant chiringuita is tangana on valdequeros beach – very close to the dunes just outside of tariff.   there is a lovely shop there too, caravan, housed in a caravan type shack, selling more quality summer clothes.   Canos de Meca has chiringuitas, as well as Zahara de los Atunes.

we now have pop up vans and trucks which is the english equivalent to the chiringuita.  in fact, Whitecross street, which is just by my new flat has a series of pop up stalls and vans, serving absolutely everything from Thai, Sushi, Lebanese,  Indian – don’t know whether this is a good thing or not having something like this on your doorstep.


I have finally made it back to Padstow  – its been more than 3 years since I have been – staying with my lovely friends Jon and Kim, who moved down here several years ago.  Each time i come, there are new enterprises popping up;  including  hawksfield, a recent enterprise of vintage furniture, health food and deli products, flowers, homeware by Jo and co.   the cafe there is also a fun place to meet – its more informal, but also does breakfast.   Hawksfield is just outside of Wadebridge.

we had lunch at Potager in Constantine, a cafe /restaurant housed in a garden centre which had been left to be delapidated and over the years has been restored ,to provide a really lovely space for meeting, arts and crafts workshops and really tasty healthy food. 

I also walked over to the Old lifeboat station, Edward Woodward’s old house In Hawkers cove – again a beautiful spot and if you go early, say 9am, its practically deserted, even in the height of the August tourist season.  sadly, it’s been sold and apparently being developed into something swish, which is always sad.  

A new stopping place, just outside of Padstow is Margo’s – a restaurant that opens from breakfast, right through to dinner; the food is locally sourced and seasonal and you can also find local products for sale – chocolate, gin, wine and preserves.  there is also a garden centre and flowers shop selling locally grown flowers.

A great place to eat is  Appletons, a very tasty rustic Italian style food restaurant at trevibban mill.  the food is locally grown and raised, with some of the vegetables grown on site.   this is a local cornish vineyard that produces its own wine and cider,  you can  have wine tasting tours which sound fun – if only i drank wine!  i noticed that you could buy home spun wool too. its always lovely to see new places opening up – i realised that we have been coming to Padstow for over 20 years now as my friends have always had a place there.

We walked up again to the nearby granite obelisk which was built in 1887 to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, offering stunning views and quietness from the busy centre of Padstow.



art shops are so inspiring

one of my all time favourite shops in london, l. cornelissen stocks art materials, but not just like your regular art shop,  its a specialist in all types of mediums, from inks, to watercolours, to gouache etc….  there are bottles, jars, tins, tubes of everything that you would ever need.  the problem is that i dont even know what you use most of the things for!  its definitely a place for inspiring your creativity – i bought some lovely pastels, in their gorgeous boxes, you feel that they are themselves an art piece and  will try them out in the large choice of sketch books that they have in stock.  what a brilliant present to buy somebody interested in art, a starter kit in drawing or painting  with a lovely notebook – perfect for any young teenager or for someone to inspire them to start drawing!

I recently discovered another lovely shop – art shops seem to be curiousity shops that you can spend hours in – Stuart  Stevenson on Clerkenwell Road. 

I have only ever bought online from them, but Jackson’s art shop has a good choice too. 

Great Art has a wide range of ready made linen oil canvasses as well as all the usual art materials, plus its opposite my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. 

i recently joined a Chinese painting class and started painting these flowers – you just need a roll of rice paper, a couple of good brushes and a bottle of ink;  watercolours are easy to do too, you dont need much space, you just need a brush and a few colours and water ……  I find a need a class to get me started – I always have good intentions, but actually joining a class really makes you get up and have a go!

on the make

so living in a new area is both exciting and daunting – it’s strange how you get into habits and trust things that you know or are familiar;  even shopping in another branch of M & S is different and takes a while to adjust to.  Islington is definitely more upmarket to Camden, or maybe it’s customer demographic is different – feeling more like Marylebone with higher end brands, it’s hard not to pop into Toast or Ottolenghi whilst out buying your everyday shopping.   my favourite shop so far is Ray Stitch – I remember them on Broadway Market many years ago. 

ray stitch is great for haberdashery, ribbons, fabrics , patterns – a whole room of interesting designs to keep you inspired –  plus sewing classes – which look so interesting; there are a wide range of classes available from absolute beginners up – its a great gift idea to give to that person who has never sewn in their life!!  in fact there are lots of gift ideas in there. 

another way to learn new techniques are by zoom with classes run by Toast – during the pandemic, I did so many different ones that were on offer, from sashiko repair, embroidery stitches, darning and repair – we curse the computer, but at times it can offer so much.  

 tea and crafting also looks like a very interesting place – you can do one off workshops, learn to knit, make a lampshade or a ring, or just about anything.   you can also join classes at your local adult education centre, such as city lit, working mens college.

so with your ever growing list of things to do in the new year, you can add sewing classes – it may never happen, but at least the intention was there!  I recently had a go at embroidery – sewing in front of the TV using the only stitch I can remember from school  –  I did do needlework and domestic science at school, it was definitely a fun part of the curriculum, though now deemed as  lightweight subjects.  



moving house

It’s taken many years, uhming and ahhing about whether to move or not, and somehow lockdown managed to persuade us that we didnt need a big family house any more. I guess spending time amongst all your things and being more at home, really ingrains how much stuff you possess. Don’t get me wrong, I was very lucky to be in the house during the pandemic, having space, an outdoor garden, even small was a godsend, especially as 2020 was a sunny warm summer, but once winter drew in, we had made up our mind that it was time to leave after 26 years and allow another family to grow and enjoy the space, create their own memories and have their own adventures. Mine have now grown up, Maude being 22, she is still the baby of the family, but already enjoying the wide world out there.

Although you usually have at least 3 months to prepare for the moving out process, one doesn’t actually start properly until you have exchanged; as we had had one buyer pull out close to exchanging, we really didn’t want to accept that it was actually going to happen until we had exchanged – in this case, that gave us just 2 weeks to pack. So I totally underestimated the amount of work physically and emotionally packing up a house;  5 floors of stuff that tell stories from 5 different individuals…. I tried to refrain from opening each file, each book, each box, but curiosity and human nature beat me to it and so by the last week, I was literally throwing things in boxes to enable the move.   Strangely once you start dismantling your space, it becomes less and less your space, devoid of your family, friends and personal trinkets, it becomes another box, an empty shell to make your own.  I definitely have now separated myself from the house, just seeing the vastness and endless floors as more and more work.   I have to admit that I did shed a tear on the last hour walking around checking the cupboards and nooks and crannies.  

As we have to refurbish our next home, moving was more problematic, as most of our stuff had to go into store, some work stuff went into a local store for easy access, some went to both my older children as they were moving into new homes, and a lot went to charity and the dump! it definitely made life easier employing a company to deliver boxes and packaging and help on the day with packing and carrying. its definitely money worth spending.

We are temporarily living in a 2 bedroom flat, a quarter of the size of the house, but strangely it’s just enough for us both.  I guess we are realising that we have now entered a new phase of our life, cleansing and reducing, living more simply, it’s a breath of fresh air and a weight of our shoulders..

We look forward to the next chapter of our lives; downsizing enables you to clear any debts and mortgages, help the children a little but mainly it allows you to rethink your own life and what you need and desire.

meditation and mindfulness

I cannot recommend anything as potent as taking the time to meditate.  for many years I have dismissed it as hippy nonsense.  but as we lead a more stressful and fast pace of life, I’ve realised that being ‘mindful’ and taking the time to meditate are indeed great tools for calming, controlling, and rejuvenating one’s mind.   I used to do yoga as a form of exercise – stretching, keeping the body supple and gently toning , but now I choose yoga classes that not only achieve those things, but also help calm the mind and cultivate well being.  Susan Nove at triyoga has a lovely sense and spirit;  she runs 6 week evening courses on mindfulness, that teach you how to incorporate mindfulness in your every day tasks, meaning that you don’t have to just sit still to practise.  her half hour classes also help you maintain what you have learned.  Anna Price is also a great teacher and can personalise methods to help you get through more difficult times.  my favourite yoga teacher is Erika Tourrell – she has the right balance between yoga for revitalising the body, but her words and spirit really take you to the next level of self care and appreciation of life.   each morning, my husband and I do a meditation with Clare Connolly on Insight Timer – the breathing meditation is particularly useful for calming and setting you up for the day.  we have done this practically every day for the last year and half.   I have also been doing Qigong, which has really grasped my time  – not only have I been taking classes, but also teaching them to my friends, passing on the goodness and benefits that it has given me.   It also makes me learn more moves and the facts behind the principles of Qigong.  Not only does it keep you toned and flexible, but it also calms your mind and heart and enables you to deal with life in general, all that it throws up, its challenges, its problems, uncertainties.   i have a weekly online class by zoom, but soon I will be starting live classes in open public spaces, weather permitting……


Ronnie Scotts and Soho

it’s amazing how the simple things in life, like seeing a few friends, being able to sit in a cafe and hug your daughter have become so appreciated. But how lovely to be able to go and sit in Ronnie Scotts and see a live band. We did exactly that last Thursday and what a treat it was. Reuben James and his fellow artists wooed and entertained us reminding us how amazing it is to see someone in person and not just on a screen. The only advantage to the few rules that are left with the pandemic, is that you have more space around you, there is no crowding and everyone seems to be so patient with queuing and waiting around…… Seating was evenly spaced, so that the venue still looked full. If you get a chance then I would put Ronnie Scotts high on your list.

Afterwards, we walked through Soho, its streets lined with tables and chairs, and canopies to shield the rain and sun – so continental – it WAS busy, but it didnt feel chaotic. You can avoid the really busy streets if you still feel a bit aware. we ate in Wun’s tearoom, and managed to get a table inside without a booking – there are so many restaurants to choose from, you can take a chance and you can definitely get a table outside in most of the popular restaurants. We just felt a bit cold with that wind… and perhaps its just us getting older that we feel the cold more. we had never eaten in Wuns Tearoom, but we can recommend it as somewhere to get quick tasty food. Think Chinese Tapas….. and I loved what the waitresses wore, lovely striped cheongsam dresses with velvet jackets.

Let’s hope that everything remains open and that the weather gets better……

remarkable creatures

I am very slow at reading books, just reading before sleeping and perhaps in the middle of the night when I can’t get back to sleep…. but this book by Tracy Chevalier is a really easy read. I did watch the recent film with Kate Winslet, but this interpretation of the life of Mary Anning takes a different path and reveals a different version of life in those times. Since visiting Dorset myself for the first time last year, I have been really fascinated by those Jurassic cliffs and now that I know more about the fossils and imprints really want to visit again.

I have just started Hamnett, which was a birthday gift from my girlfriend, but wondering whether its too dark and sad to continue for nighttime reading – after all this is meant to be the time to relax, unwind and clear the mind…..

my husband bought me this great device – a clip on reading light with 3 levels of non glaring light; it definitely works and does not wake him up, except when the clip falls on the floor…..

a favourite street of mine to wander is cecil court, a wonderfully atmospheric alley of victorian bookshops, specialising in antiquarian books.  One year I stepped into the lovely marchpane book shop, which was filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful old copies of children’s books.  you can spend anything from £10 to thousands, you have to just decide what you want to pay, and then see what you like.  i chose an early 1909 copy of alice in wonderland for my daughter alice – who now she is older has decided to collect these books.  i could have spent hours in there – the graphics and design of the books were so inspirational.  so for the perfect and original gift for the person who has everything, take a trip to cecil court.


I have not got used to this watching films at home – it challenges my concentration, the phone rings, I get up and write a reminder note or an email, its definitely not the same as watching on the big screen, where your entire attention is captured. Being in the cinema is like being in a dream, you are taken from real life for a couple of hours and transported into someone else’s life. As the year seems to have flown by and all these films have been coming out, we really felt that we needed to watch some of the films. So last week we watched Minari , the Korean film about a family who have moved to Arkansas from California to start a new life – in a mobile home. its a gentle film that shows the struggle of married life with different aspirations, caring for a child with health problems and trying to make a living to just be able to eat . When the grandmother arrived, it made me sad, as she reminded me of my own mother with her odd ways and phrases – I won’t spoil the film, but you will understand why she made an impression on me. I thought it a lovely film, I think my husband thought it a bit sentimental.

I cannot wait for cinemas to reopen – that with galleries will be one of the things on my list to do in the next couple of months. I do hope that they all have survived this pandemic, especially the Curzon, and the BFI and my favourite Wiltons, which occasionally shows old classics with live orchestras. we also went to a Secret Cinema, which was great fun, especially if you are with a group of friends….. the nearest I will ever get to being an actor……