London Calling? I can’t hear it!

I know that to some people – many people – living in London is the epitome of cool. It’s very rare you hear of country kids growing up with a dream to move to Manchester, for example. It’s always London. The capital city; centre of culture, home to theatreland and the geography of our Monarch.

Me? I’ve never seen the appeal. It’s expensive, crowded and full of tourists. Plus it’s pretty big. So living “in” London is actually about living in one of many boroughs, all of which have their own individual high streets, postcodes and local pubs. All the “great things” that people quote about living in London – the museums, the art galleries, the chance to see different bands every night of the week and a different play in the West End – aren’t really on your doorstep. Sure, your own borough might have stuff going on, but probably not every day, You’ll invariably need to travel to suck up everything that London has to offer, which means an overcrowded tube, an overpriced taxi, or a walk that will be more suited to trainers than those new strappy heels that match so well with your dress.

Because you wouldn’t drive. Good god no! Traffic jams and parking nightmares and one way systems, plus the fact that you probably couldn’t afford to run a car because of your extortionate public transport costs (plus paying through the nose to rent a flat the size of a shoebox). That’s why women can be seen traversing the pavements in business suits and sneakers on their way to offices where they’ll change into heels when safely at their desk.

The reason for my vitriolic London rant? Today! I had a meeting in London today, for work. I had to catch a 6.30am train (that’s not London’s fault, I know). There were issues with my pre-booked tickets (also not London’s fault). Here’s the bit that’s London’s fault.

The underground. Queuing to get on an escalator to get to correct platform.

Temperatures increasing the lower you get, so that even in winter when you’re wrapped up against the elements it’s too hot. Standing crammed against strangers in an overstuffed carriage and hoping everyone remembered to use deodorant that morning.

Tourists. Everywhere! Wheeling suitcases, taking up space, stopping without warning or running over your feet.

How do people do it every day?!

And of course things weren’t helped by the fact that the Victoria line – the one and only tube line that would get me to where I needed to be – was closed. So, all of a sudden, the life source of London – moving people around seamlessly and methodically, away from the unpredictability of traffic jams and delivery drivers and all those things which can slow a vehicle above ground – came to a halt. Not so bad if you know what the alternatives are. A pain in the ass if you don’t.

Now, I’m not completely callous and heartless, so the fact that the line closure was due to a fatality on the line did temper my annoyance somewhat. But being told I needed to catch “the number 24, from behind that building” wasn’t exactly the hand holding I needed. “That building” didn’t have an obvious “back”. It had sides, which I had to wander around. It also had many many bus stops on it’s perimeter.

The upshot was that I found the bus stop. The bus turned up quickly. The driver looked at me like I was trying to pull a fast one when I explained that the Victoria Line wasn’t working and told me that I would have to justify this to the ticket inspector if he got on the bus, but he didn’t charge me. And, unlike being underground, you get to see more of this great city.

Like the building work.

Oh, and some more building work (seriously, it’s everywhere you look).


The great range of well thought out and well appointed apartments, where you can sit outside and admire the building work while breathing in genuine London smog.


The bright red double decker buses, snaking across the city at a snail’s pace.


Of course there are some great sights too, although how much notice you would take if you were seeing them on a daily basis is questionable.

Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column

The cenotaph in Whitehall, covered in fresh wreaths following the Battle of Gallipoli memorial parade at the weekend


Beautiful and imposing buildings with architectural influences from across the centuries


Good old London boozers.


Quite a lot of photographs for one bus journey, yes? That’s because it took a whole bloody hour instead of what would have been a 10 minute tube journey. It took 8 minutes to get across one set of traffic lights when there was only one vehicle in front of us. The bus driver squeezed in a space alongside a lorry that was so tight the two vehicles were touching each other. And neither driver acknowledged the bump or challenged the other one.

Presumably because, well, that’s London for ya.

Malaga – way more than just an airport

My travel retrospective yesterday got me thinking about past travels and city breaks.

I love getting away for a weekend. Short breaks concentrate your efforts in terms of seeing everything and doing stuff. Whilst not the most relaxing of times, I always feel fulfilled and satisfied by just how much I’ve managed to do. No time for having a lie in or an afternoon nap. It’s all about cramming it all in.

Quite often a city break for us can stem from seeing a cheap flight and investigating whether the destination is worth visiting. Which is how we ended up in Malaga 5 years ago.

For most Malaga is a gateway to the Costas. Brits who have holiday homes in Spain flock to the airport, or through the airport, from the beginning of the sunny season through til the end. Families on their two week escape looking for sea, sun and sand will land at the airport and be whisked away by tour operator coaches to their coastal destination of choice. But there is so much more to Malaga.

I don’t recall what made me look into it as a destination in itself, but I was so glad I did. Husband wasn’t convinced but I implored him to trust me. In mid April, flying out on a Thursday, flights were still reasonable and we got a basic but modern, adequate and well situated IBIS hotel at a steal. The actual trip cost us around £100 each for two nights.

First things first…Malaga is very Spanish. Which seems a case of stating the bleeding obvious, but it’s true. Because it’s not a tourist destination there is no “need” for everyone to speak English. As a result (and refreshingly so) Spanish is the first language. There is a need to communicate via pigeon English and pointing at menus when ordering food. Shops don’t have English signs. There’s a real feel of being in Spain, despite the influx of Brits through the vicinity on a daily basis.

Malaga, for me, has it all. The climate (it was 25 degrees in the day and around 15 degrees at night, and that was end of April), the food (bars and cafes serving authentic tapas, and tiny backstreet alley restaurants delivering the best paella ever for about 10 euros), the architecture (white washed buildings, cathedrals and a castle in the hills) and the sea (it’s on the coast. Who knew?!)

Oh, and when we arrived, they’d had a film festival in the city, so there was a red carpet running through the pedestrian area. And not to welcome us, as I thought might be the case.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking,

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Malaga is all about timing. Due to it’s popularity for reaching coastal destinations flights can actually be prohibitively expensive in summer. But time it right early or late in the season, with a mid week flight, and it’s well worth a visit.

The French Coast – a look back and a peek forward

2 weeks today I’ll be on a plane to France, hurrah! Invariably it will be wet and dull in the UK, in true bank holiday style, so I’m making the most of it by jetting off for 3 days in Nice, on the French Riviera.

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Living in land locked Birmingham, it’s always good to get to the coast, especially when it’s as stunning as this. The Cote d’Azur has a micro climate and 200-250 days of sunshine each year, so I’m hopeful that early May will be warm and pleasant, and I might even get to dip my toes in that stunning blue sea.

As well as a stunning coastline, Nice has beautiful architecture, lots of greenery and a colourful Old Town that I’m looking forward to wandering around.

Nice port

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Nice cathedral

Nice old town

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It’s 5 and a half years since I was last on the French Coast. We went to Marseille for a our first wedding anniversary, and totally fell in love with it. Just 6 hours door to door, from home via Birmingham airport, it’s a gem of a place and we immediately declared it our weekend bolthole when we fancied getting away. Unfortunately Ryanair had other ideas and cancelled the route soon afterwards so we haven’t been back since, but I would definitely return.

Here are some snaps.

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This little piggy went to market

Specifically the Birmingham Rag Market.

This has been in my life for as long as I can remember. As a kid, going into town on the train with my Mom to purchase fabric for curtains (she was a keen seamstress), as a teenager buying clubbing clothes from some of the independent traders, and into my 20s buying antique and vintage jewellery from 2 kooky old ladies.


I haven’t been to the market for quite a while. It’s rare I shop in real life any more! And the only chance I get to go into town is on Saturdays and Sundays – the market is closed on Sundays and Saturday are just hellish – why would you?!

Anyway, I digress. The rag market is still a hive of tatt and treasures. Hats, masks, bargain branded make up, fancy dress, sparkly jewellery, cheap shoes, patterned tights, bright coloured fabrics, vintage clothes and mobile phone accessories sit alongside each other seamlessly.

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There’s always a gem to be had if you’re patient. I wasn’t in the market (geddit!) for anything, but the key is having an open mind.

So, what did I score?

Some costume jewellery – £1 each!


The red one looks like a jewelled fruit depending which way you wear it, and the “pearl” one has a petty diamante trim. I can’t get a good close up of the black one, but it has marcasite effect hearts on the side.

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I spotted a rail of 70s looking leather and suede jackets on one of the vintage stalls. I’ve wanted a 70s tan jacket for a while, and never found the right one. This looked like it might fit the bill.


But it was ever so slightly too small and wouldn’t fasten. 70s women were a lot smaller(and I’m not the waif I once was…) Despite the stall owner telling me I could have it for £15 (a tenner discount from the marked up price of £25) I decided not to impulse buy.

However, after thinking about it all day (and seeking the husband’s opinion via the medium of picture message) I decided to go for it. After all, who wears their jackets “done up” anyway?

Here it is; a total bargain and a great shape/colour combo.

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And I’m pretty happy with myself!


Time for some street food now; review to follow. Happy Friday!

Treat for feet – Emjoi Micropedi

I’ve been meaning to buy a micropedi for ages in an attempt to get rid of the hard skin on my feet. I’ve tried lots of things in the past – foot files, ped eggs (like a cheese grater for your feet), hard skin remover cream and socks overnight, but nothing has been as effective as I would like. Towards the end of summer especially, after wearing flat heel revealing sandals they can be pretty awful, and painful too.

As I said, I’ve thought about buying one before. They’re not hugely expensive but I’ve usually frittered away my money on other stuff instead, like more shoes to squeeze my trotters into, and promptly forgotten.

Last week the husband asked what I was going to treat myself to with my redundancy payment. As there’s nothing I need (she says, having yet another pile of online shopping to return today), I proudly declared the same. Then I remembered the micropedi.

Hardly a wild and crazy frivolous purchase (as I am wont to do do) but hey ho,

Well, what can I say? Wild and frivolous it may not be; life changing it most certainly is. I don’t say that lightly, as generally these kind of gadgets tend to be all mouth/no trousers, but this really is ace. It’s so simple I can’t believe it’s never been done before (I mean as in eons ago, I know it’s been around for a while). It’s handily shaped like an electric razor.

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With a replacable roller made out of a cross between pumice and coarse sandpaper that literally sands away the hard skin!


It makes a rather satisfying noise on contact, a bit like a lightweight angle grinder, and you can see your skin coming off in powder format (sorry if TMI). You can feel the difference even from first use.

The micropedi comes with one replacement roller and a small brush for cleaning away “residue” (i.e. powdered skin).


Changing the roller is easy; there’s a small clip at the side which you push up, and the roller just slides out.

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I paid just £23.99 with free P&P via Amazon, although I notice it’s now down to £19.99, grrr. And you can buy 4 replacement rollers for around a tenner, although I don’t think these are official manufacturer ones, they’re about a tenner for 2 (I think I’m going to need these sooner rather than later, as I’ve already been using it on hubby’s feet, and am trying it out on my Mom later too – perhaps a new career is in the making – not! Working with people’s feet all day? Yuk!) Replacement rollers also come in extra coarse for those particularly hard to beat bits of skin. I might buy some of those too; I reckon with constant use I could drop a shoe size by summer….

A great bank holiday Monday

Here’s what I got up to.

We drove to Clent Hills for some sunshine and fresh air and beautiful views.



The rest of Birmingham had the same idea and it was manic. No parking spaces and an impatient husband conspired against us.

So we came home and went out locally.

We watched great blues and jazz music c/o Moseley’s best pub on a sunny day, The Prince of Wales.


Hannah Johnson and The Broken Hearts are a great Country band with a sweet female vocalist, a cool steel guitarist, an amazing lead guitarist and a double bassist. Double bass is my favourite instrument.


So cool.

So we drank some cocktails (an Old Fashioned for him and a hmm.a.hmm.aaaa.hmm for me…I can’t remember the name, but it contained gin and elderflower).


And then went for Moroccan food, starting with mussels with chilli which, I am so hooked on, I can’t have anything else when I eat here.


Much love for Bank Holiday!