It’s not blue Monday yet; that’s next week. So we can still say, Happy New Year! But if you’re like me, the holidays seem a slightly distant memory. Suddenly, this weekend, London filled up, casting off for another year the ghostly curious emptiness of Christmas, with her deserted streets, dark windows – that time when you can drive around from one end of London to the other as if in the 1950s (a quality that you can, of course, find at any time of the year by walking through the City of London early on a Sunday morning).
Christmas feels an age away; I suspect that many people’s New Year Resolutions will be slipping, as we realise once again that the only resolution ever worth making is to be realistic. To be honest, I’ve always thought the dark days of January are a terrible time to give up anything. Much easier to have a good spring clean in a few month’s time.
I did make one resolution, though, and I’ll try to keep it. And that is that somehow, somewhere, each week this year, the blog needs to write about 52 new things – 52 places or things or experiences that Charlie and I have never had or seen or done before. They might be large, or more probably be small, but every week of the year I want to see or do or look at or think about something that I haven’t done before.
So you won’t mind my starting this New Year’s blog first by ringing out the old days of 2016 with some photographs of something very familiar indeed. After the happiest Christmas in London with Mum & Dad, Charlie and I headed to Dorset after Boxing day and had the quietest time imaginable. The days were still, clear and cold, and we woke most mornings to frost. Magical morning walks.
I pottered about with this and that. Charlie got the last of the manure on the garden.
Though it was nowhere near the longest time we’ve spent in Dorset, it was probably the biggest shock getting back to London. But we’ve had the nicest weekend nonetheless.
We started yesterday with a hangover; nothing new there. On Friday night we had a brilliant and happy good bye to wonderful Lucy who’s worked in my decoration office for the last three years, in which time we went really from no jobs at all to everything we have on now. How time flashes by. As she heads off to new adventures, we bid her farewell in the old panelled rooms of Blacks, in Soho. I just about managed to go home in one piece; Charlie and the boys were heading out dancing. He got back not quite as the sun was rising (this being winter still). So Saturday morning was very quiet. Bridie made an emergency visit with cheese toasties. And then we recovered enough for a late lunch in the pub with an old friend of Charlie’s over from New Zealand, and settled into Shirley Valentine for the afternoon, and had a lovely supper with our friends David and Chris.
This morning, an early visit to Columbia Road and breakfast after at the Colony Grill Room, where you really cannot go wrong. Apart from our parking ticket.
And then it was up to Hampstead for Mavis’s walk and pints with the pub with Ruth.
We parked our car on this little street where I loved the house above, and was intrigued and mystified to see this little sign pinned to an anonymous green painted front door.
Can anyone explain? I would be grateful.
I loved these knobbly trees,
And these tiles,
And these stained glass door signs at Parliament Hill Mansions.
Okay, you’re not going to believe me but here’s the new bit. I’ve never, ever in my life walked up Parliament Hill. Primrose Hill, yes; the northern end of Hampstead Heath, yes; Parliament Hill…. No.
Here’s the lido at the bottom of the hill. The city coming in to view beyond.
And here we are.
You could just make out a misty St. Paul’s, hidden between the towers and cranes of New London.
And then we set off for a walk around this part of the Heath. Perfect first date territory, it appeared:
Perfect jogging territory,
And perfect getting away from it territory, for those of us missing woodland and muddy leaves.
Mavis went mental, in a good way.
And then we made our way down…. to a really, really old favourite…. Pints and pork baps with Ruth Guilding at the Southampton Arms, which has to be the best pub in London I would say, but don’t tell anyone.
We rolled out of the pub a couple of hours later and crossed over to beautiful Grove Terrace, where I spotted a little grove of violets. You might have thought it was just a little rubbishy patch of nothing,
But then you noticed this.
Geoffrey Jellicoe’s house (have a read of my blog about Shute House, which he designed, here):
Cutting a dash in Grove Terrace Mews (we decided to ignore the sign and authorise our own access):
Rolling Streets of Victorian London stretch out:
And here was new destination two. Ruth was taking us to the Fitzroy Park Allotments. We’ll need to come back in the Summer.
Cobble moss porn.
We wandered up to Highgate. Here was a sight. George Michael’s shrine, outside his house.
George’s Range Rover was covered in mementos. Crowds of sad visitors mingled and looked at the notes. It was strangely moving.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge died in his house next door. No flowers for him, but we wondered if milkmaids of London bought their posies of roses here on the 25th July, 1834?
To be honest, I’ve never just pottered around in Highgate before, so this was another first in its way. I know it a tiny bit, but I’ve always been rushing through. So many things do you miss that way. This perfect sign, for instance.
A glimpse in to Highgate Cemetery, which annoyingly you can only visit now by guided tour (It’s not often that I can cope with a guided tour).
Ruth and Bunny, Charlie and Mavis by the extraordinary tall wall of the cemetery.
Lady Workers’ Homes on the Holly Lodge Estate, which needs more exploration all on its own,
And then Ruth took us past crazy Victorian Gothic Holly Village, which I would love to visit more properly.
And we walked past this pale ultramarine moderne apartment building, and speculated that this would be the nicest house to live in of all.And the walk was over. We’re back at home. Charlie is cooking. Delicious smells are coming from the kitchen, and we’re about to watch a movie; I’m not quite sure which, but that’s a nice feeling too*.
Happy Sunday, and Happy New Year; let’s really hope it is a fine one. I feel it may be.
*POSTSCRIPT: Pretty Woman.