Monday, 1 August 2011

A month of weekends

I know absolutely it's been too long since I've written when one of my eight devoted readers called me to ask if everything was alright (sorry Dad - yep, all OK. Just been a little too busy lately but I'm back now and raring to write).

It's been a month of weekends and tomorrow it's August and after next weekend's scheduled nothing it will be non-stop until October with house guests, more weddings, a weekend or two away and just the general chaos of living in London while working full-time and planning a wedding back in Sydney. Is it wrong to be wishing I was already on a beach in Thailand? Or at the very least on a plane home for Christmas? I'm kinda pooped. But the last four weekends have been brilliant and special for a host of reasons so I'm not sorry in the slightest.

Weekend One, July 9-10: Paris

There was something delicious about going to Paris FOR THE DAY with my purse and my passport. The occasion was my dear friend Nina's hen party and while she and the rest of The Girls were there for the whole weekend, there were only enough pennies in my purse to manage a day trip, albeit a decadent one. Grazia got me from Kings Cross all the way to rural France before a nap got me the rest of the way to Paris. I didn't think about packing a map (probably because it offended my alliteration) and so there was an interesting moment of Parisien Marco Polo via text message before I eventually joined the group near Notre Dame for lunch and then an afternoon of vintage shopping and macaroons. It was A LOT of fun. My new 80s Lanvin dress that's just a little bit fabulous and my 50s skirt that LBB is convinced was made from curtain material. And his point exactly?....

A cocktail in the Marais and then I was back on the train and back to London. It was a long day but a truly great one and I still can't get past the thrill of actually being able to GO to Paris for the day. I mean, it takes an hour and a half to fly to Melbourne - it takes a Grazia and a half hour nap to get to central Paris. I love it. And I can't wait to be back in October with Mum and Max.

Weekend Two, July 16-17: Monkey Island, Nina & Steve's wedding.

As is often the case with a hen party, a wedding typically follows and the next weekend LB and I were off to Maidenhead for Nina and Steve's oh so lovely wedding on Monkey Island in the village of Brae...

You get to Monkey Island via a footbridge. Nina and Steve, being resident of a 18th century Dutch barge houseboat, got there via their home up the Thames. The weather wasn't so fantastic but the rain held off for the ceremony and the setting was so idyllic and so quintessentially rural English that everyone was just charmed - though the love for the bride and groom probably had something to do with that also.

The reception was in this great room with this brilliant chandelier and I honestly had one of the best seats in the house - looking straight out at the happy couple and then out through the glass doors to the river.

The food was delicious, we had the brilliant company of my old flatmate and her partner and for LB in particular it was heartening to realise that weddings don't have to be scary and that even a nervous groom with an A4 sheet of paper can still steal the room with his heartfelt, hilarious speech. The dessert bar undoubtedly also helped. If this wasn't an idea we were already considering we would have absolutely filched it for our own little soiree in January. 

We didn't last late into the night because a week of work hell left LB literally nodding in his chair before the dancing had even started and so we left, after the vodka shots but before the disco but in time to see the beautiful paper lanterns lit and sent off into the sky. So lovely. And the full moon was a treat.


The next day was lunch up river (down river?) where we caught a rare moment of sunshine before the rain re-appeared and then it was home to London to collapse. Two weekends down two to go.

Weekend Three, July 22 - 23: Friends from Home

Earlier in the week (in fact the Friday before the weekend before) LB, Tors, her Hungry One and I had dinner and too much to drink with the fabulous Danne, catching up on all things life, love, work and travel and then the following Friday my little Bondi friend Imara came to town. She'd been in Paris visiting her sister and this was her first visit to the UK. She didn't have a phone, she didn't have a map - so I gave what I thought were fantastically precise directions to the Haunch of Venison gallery off New Bond St, where I would meet her once I'd finished my meeting at Louis Vuitton. It turns out my directions were fabulous but til the last street - something I only realised as I myself walked up the street on my way to my meeting. Thankfully she's an exceptionally bright girl and I found her on the front steps of the gallery (a block from where I said it was) and all was well.

Now New Bond St is certainly one way to introduce a person to London and heading to the nearest pub for a glass (OK, bottle) of wine with my boss we walked in to find nearly every man in there dressed in top hats and tails. Obviously they'd been to a wedding but having walked just past Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana et al on her way to meet me, the hilarity of the scene was not lost on me, though I'm still not sure Imara's convinced this isn't a typical Friday in the city.

Moving on to Soho to say farewell to Danne and to collect the Lovely Boy, we then went to dinner in Chinatown, so starving we may have ordered a duck. A whole duck. And we may have eaten it all.

The next day we braved the crowds and went to Portobello Road, via the obligatory stop outside the 'Hugh & Julia' travel bookshop, before then escaping into Hyde Park. After a brief trip through the Michaelangelo Pistoletto exhibition at the Serpentine we took refuge in the summer pavilion, designed this year by Peter Zumthor. It was, as I imagine it was envisaged to be, a sanctuary. Even with the dogs and kids and crowds it was so peaceful and lovely and calm inside, in stark contrast to its rather severe exterior.

Exahusted and foot sore and in need of wine and sofa, we headed home for an evening of food and talk and bad films - all that was missing were the Mint Slices. The next day we headed for Spitalfields for some East London experience before moving on to the Southbank for some sightseeing at the Globe and Tate Modern. Imara is currently working with Bell Shakespeare so there was no way we couldn't pay a visit to the Bard's original stomping ground if she was to go home with her integrity intact. Or without her I Heart Shakespeare keyring, come on, right?

After visiting the engrossing, complicated Taryn Simon exhibition at Tate we then lay on the grass in some rare summer sunshine drinking juice and talking life. I can't articulate how good it was. So good it made me painfully homesick for my life in Sydney where there are lots of friends to lie on the grass drinking juice and talking life with. London has many wonderful things about it - but a gang of brilliant girlfriends....... I miss my gang.

Dinner at Dishoom with OTHER old family friends followed and then LB and I took her to Covent Garden to spy on the Opera House. For my money though the sky was the most breath-taking thing about the moment. The next day I was back to work and Imara had London to herself before heading back to Paris on the train. I loved having her here and I can't wait to be back in Sydney in December in amongst my gals.

Weekend Four, 30-31 July: The weekend just gone.

This weekend has been remarkable for it's lack of remark. I had a haircut. I finished my book. We had dinner at the delicious da polpo in Covent Garden with Tors and the Hungry One to discuss plans for our upcoming weekend jaunt to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and then we had ice cream. 

And then this afternoon, in the sunshine that's still loitering about from last weekend,  LB and I went to Whitechapel to see the Thomas Struth exhibition after wandering through the madness of East London and Brick Lane, where we came across this brilliant mural and another underway:

And THEN we came home and I have been sitting on the sofa ever since, writing while Lovely Boy has been cooking, inspired by the new Simon Hopkinson food show on the beeb:

Grilled eggplant and fetta. Yes it was delicious and yes I am eating off the cushion while I continue to sit on the sofa. It's been THAT kind of weekend.

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