Friday, September 02, 2016

London in August, afternoon tea at The Langham, Suzy in Harley Street, a sad trip to Ickenham (the Rijeka air crash in 1971), Cliveden House, a naked man on the Overground, binge watching films on Netflix, Kew Gardens revisited, home again and other stories.

Saturday 3rd September 2016
At Cliveden House and gardens with Suzy on Saturday, one of the few  photos of us together on my trip to London
Hi everyone,

Well I’m back now and have satiated my need to be with Suzy and in England until next time.  It was a great 6 days with its ups and downs, so let me tell you all about it.

I flew to Gatwick on Thursday 25th August with Easy Jet, my preferred low cost airline.  It was incident free thankfully.  My flight was mid-morning and I arrived at around 2 p.m.  I went straight to Victoria and from there took a taxi to the Langham Hotel in Portland Place where Suzy had booked a table for lunch at The Palm Court Restaurant.  It was a beautiful restaurant made even lovelier by the piano player's music.
The Palm Court restaurant at The Langham Hotel 
I couldn't wait to see Suzy and when she came the two of us hugged emotionally in front of everybody in the restaurant.  But we didn't care.  The restaurant boasted it offered the best afternoon tea in town.  I didn't really believe it but was bowled over when it came. I think it really was the best I've ever had.  The cakes were like a work of art.  Just look at the photos.
Afternoon tea at The Palm Court restaurant at The Langham Hotel in Portland Place.
Suzy, being a dietitian and vegan went for a more modest choice and had an avocado salad and broccoli hahahha. 

My eldest daughter had very little time to be with me as her lunch break is only 30 minutes, although the day I arrived she stretched it a bit further.  From the restaurant we walked around the corner to Harley Street where Suzy works.
Harley Street where Suzy works as a dietitian for Pronokal
When Suzy got the job as a dietitian with Pronokal at their London clinic, she had no idea what Harley Street means to British medicine.  It was I who told her just how famous and prestigious it is. It was time for me to see where she worked.

I was impressed with the door and even more impressed with the clinic.  Pronokal is a company which specialises in weight loss and wow it seems to work.  

The Pronokal clinic in Harley Street where Suzy works as a dietitian
In order to help her patients and to understand the diet more, Suzy herself followed it and lost 5kg in one month. I was tickled pink to watch and listen to Suzy in a patient consultation.  When you go to a clinic to lose weight you feel very vulnerable but Suzy made everyone feel completely comfortable, she is so kind and helpful to them all. 


No one knew I was the dietitian's mother, so I asked a couple who had come into the clinic for some of the products what they thought of it.  The wife told me her husband had lost 16 kilos in one month!  Men of course lose more than women on diets.  Gradually the clinic filled up and I had to go. It was there and then I made up my mind I shall go on the Pronokal diet this month, after the family wedding in Malaga. Watch this space ok.

We ordered a taxi for me via the Addison Lee app (similar to Uber) which took me quickly to Suzy's new flat in Hackney.  She gave me the keys and I was able to get in easily.  Whilst in London everyone kept telling me how trendy the area was but I didn't see it that way.  It seemed very dirty to me, as did most of London I must say.  The flat Suzy is sharing with her Spanish "manada" friends had my heart drop when I saw it as it had so many flaws and was not a place I would like my daughters to live in.  More than anything it is a depressing abode. They have cleaned it as best they could but there is no way they can get rid of the decades of grime it has accumulated. On the bright side, the flat is central, light and for once has a lounge.  Suzy very unfairly was made to take the small room which can hardly fit a double bed in it but that's a story which isn't for this post.  Thus my suitcase stayed outside on the landing. As soon as I had organised it, had a shower and dressed, I was off again.  I was to meet Suzy at Mile End Tube Station from where we were going for dinner to her ex flat mates, Vicky and Julieta's new place whom she had lived with in Camden.

Before going there we stopped at The Co-Op to buy some food to take along. Shopping in England has changed and it's nearly all self service these days. I can do it but very slowly and felt a little like a country bumpkin. Suzy, on the other hand, does it in a jiffy.  Here she is at the automated self check out counter.
Shopping at Tesco - Suzy know exactly how things work in London
I loved the girls new flat and only wished Suzy had gone to live with them. For the record they are sisters from Argentina and both work for Amazon and they are lovely girls.  They even have a little garden which is where we had dinner
A selfie at Vicky and Julieta's place where we had dinner on my first night in London
Suzy who bikes or walks everywhere in London both to do exercise and to save money on public transport guided me home walking along the canal.  I have an aversion to dirty old canals with narrow paths and especially hate them at night. The added problem was all the bikes coming up behind us. We seemed to be in London Fields much appreciated but not in my mind.  It was a balmy evening and in fact the day before had been the hottest day of the year with 31 c.  It was hotter in Madrid with 36 c but it is of course more humid in London.  I didn't look forward to sharing Suzy's small double bed with the worst mattress and springs I have ever slept on. However I must have been very tired as in the end I didn't sleep at all badly. Later in the week the landlords were going to change the mattresses but not the springs. They have a lot more to change and mend and the girls have made a very long list.  
On Friday I was up at 7.30 (6.30 for me).  We had a lovely breakfast together despite there being no chairs in the flat (the landlord has refused on this point).  So we ate sitting on the sofa.  Suzy would be leaving for work (her timetable is from 11 am to 7 pm) and I had a plan for the day. 

 As I told you in my last post I would be visiting Ickenham, the village where my Aunty Gloria, Uncle Derek and cousins Jacqueline, Michael and Antony lived as well as my grandparents, all on my Father's side.  It's a village I know very well, on the Metroplitan line to Uxbridge, because we spent every Christmas there when I was a child.  They died tragically in the Rijeka Air Crash on 23rd May 1971 on their way to a holiday in the island of Krk where my Aunt and Uncle had fallen in love 14 years before. This is a tragedy that has lived with me always and which you can read more about in a post I wrote some years ago. 

What spurred me on to visit their grave was a message to me I found on FB messenger a short while ago from the sole survivor's  (Jrajko Sarajcic) daughter Iva and one from a woman called Jenny who wrote to me from Ickenham to say the tragedy had never left the village. Indeed it hasn't. She also told me there was a stained glass window in the church (St. Giles) in memory of them which I didn't know about  and I wanted to see.  I had phoned the church and spoken to Stephanie the administrator and she had agreed for me to visit and open the church for me.  So off I went with a heavy heart.  I made my way to Baker Street to get the Metropolitan line from where it takes about 40 minutes to Ickenham. I knew most of the names of the stations on the way off by heart from my childhood visits to see my adored Aunty, cousins and grandparents.  
Ickenham tube station which I know so well.
I had no problems finding the church, my memory was intact and Ickenham did not appear to have changed much. In fact it was looking lovely with lots of flowers everywhere and it was a beautiful day.  I went past the library where I had been many times with Aunty Gloria and past the pub, the Coach and Horses and just across the road from the beautiful pump was the 800 year old church (or so Stephanie told me).
The old pump a landmark of Ickenham
I remembered the church well from going there with my Aunt as she and her family were active members of St. Giles.  It's a beautiful old church and very fitting they should be buried there.  I also remember it very well from the funeral when it was absolutely packed.  What a sad day that was and what a tragedy not only for their family but for the village too; a whole family wiped out in just one blow!
St. Giles Church in Ickenham where Aunty Gloria, Uncle Derek, Jacqueline, Michael and Antony are buried
Stephanie welcomed me and led me into the church to see the stained glass window.  I couldn't read the plaque below it because I knew I would burst into tears and I had to keep my calm.
The stained glass window memorial to my Aunt and her family at the church in Ickenham. 
She also showed me an exercise book she had found with the the recordings of the amounts given by friends and neighbours for the window to be made. I don't think we ever knew about that. It touched my heart.

The exercise book with the recording of the funding from the villagers for the stained glass window memorial 
Stephanie then took me to see the grave in the church graveyard.  It's really only a plaque and the lettering has not withstood the years very well and it is very hard to read. 
Their grave
If you look carefully you can read what it says: 

In loving memory of
Derek and Gloria Orchard
and their children
Jacqueline
Michael
Antonoy
who died in an 
air crash 
in Yugoslavia
on 23rd May 1971

It was the second time I was seeing it.  The first time was with Eladio when my dear brother George died in London in May 2001 when we went in search of it.  It was difficult to find and this time I had Stephanie to guide me.  I then went back into the church for a few moments to myself and afterwards thanked Stephanie for her help and went determinedly out of the grounds to buy some flowers for the grave.  I found them easily on the main high street "Swakeley's Lane" which I well remembered because Aunty Gloria would do her shopping there.  She would be surprised to see curry and pizza places now  but possibly the florists is still the same. I bought a plant of red roses and a card which came with a plastic cover to withstand the weather.  As I walked back to the church I thought about what I should write.  I could have written much much more but there were only 2 sides and this is what I wrote on my postcard.

The postcard I wrote to go with the flowers I put on my Aunt's grave
Feeling very lonely; oh how I would have wanted my dear Father, Gloria's adored brother, to be with me and my husband Eladio, I placed the plant and card by the grave and wondered how long it would last and whether anyone would remove it when it wilted or died.

The grave with my flowers and card
My visit to Ickenham didn't end there.  I had two other places to visit, my Aunt's house and my Grandparents house nearby.

First I made my way to 18 Ivy House Road where my Aunt and her family lived.  I remember it very clearly in my mind; every room, the entrances, the garden, everything and even what it looked like inside.  How could I not?  No one was there of course and I wasn't going to barge up to the door to tell the current tenant my sad story although I would have loved to go inside to feel closer to them.  But it was not to be. I had to content myself with just a photo and here it is; just an ordinary semi detached house in a small village in the suburbs of London, nothing special, but a house that holds a place in my heart.
18 Ivy House Road where my Aunt and her family lived.
From Ivy House Road I knew exactly how to make my way to 17 Hoylake Crescent where my grandparents lived and where we used to stay when we would come to Ickenham for Christmas every year and often in the summer or at Easter too.
17 Hoylake Crescent in Ickenham where my Father's parents retired to be near their daughter Gloria

As I looked at the house I remembered every room and the garden. I also reflected on how glad I was that my grandfather, Canon John Lloyd who died aged 74 (when I was just 4 years old but whom I remember very well) in 1961 and my Grandmother, Dorothy Gertrude Lloyd (née Scull) who died in 1971 just a short while before Aunty Gloria and Uncle Derek decided to go on holiday to Yugoslavia to show their children, my cousins, their island, did not outlive the death of their beloved daughter Gloria and their grandchildren.  It would have been just too cruel and another huge blow as their other son, Raymond died in 1939 aged just 16 of polio, a tragedy that has lived on in the family ever since.  But I also remembered the good times, our very English Christmases spent there and how my Grandmother would bring up supper on a tray to my brother and I which always included an orange each (I still have that tray) I remember too picking peas from the garden and skating with my new roller skates on the pavement in the street and so many other things.  The happiness of going to Ickenham stopped when the air crash happened but I have never forgotten them or their village.

Once home I investigated more on the air crash and even set up a FB page in memory of it  for friends and families of victims or survivors to contact me.  You see over the years, via this blog, quite a few people have written to me. If you are one of them, this is the page.  I also revisited the website where there is a description of the crash. In previous visits I had missed the final report on the accident which is there.  It's too painful to explain here why the plane crashed but if you are interested you can read about it here.

I also looked through files of documents and papers in my desk and came across the pile of clippings and letters related to the accident that my Father had kept and given to me a while ago.  At the time I didn't have the heart to read the articles but today as I am writing (right now it is Friday) I was amazed to find one about the survivor, Jrajko Sarajcic, who was 22 at the time.  This is his story which I hope if you click on the photo and enlarge it you can read.
The clipping about how Jrajko survived the Rijeka Air Crash
There were many clippings on the victims, including our family, The Orchards. This one is particularly poignant although inaccurate as my Aunt was not from Bradford (she was born in Sledmere in 1926 but was brought up mostly in Henbury in Bristol) and my Uncle could not have been 40 as she was 45 at the time) but it tells their story. I don't know who gave the newspapers their photos, but this one of my cousins I know well as an original copy is in our family album.
An article about our family who died in the air crash
I walked back to the tube station reflecting on all this.  But there were happy things awaiting me and I was in London to see Suzy and to be with her.  I caught the tube back to Baker Street and walked from there to Harley Street where I waited for Suzy to start her break. We decided to do what most London workers do and that is eat their sandwich in a park. We bought nice food at Pret a Manger and ate it together at Cavendish Park.  It was funny to see how dry the grass was because of the weather. Had it been Spain there would have been an irrigation system in place but I suppose there is no need for that in England as irrigation comes naturally from the normally abundant rain.
A picnic at Cavendish Park next to Harley Street on Friday 
Suzy had to go back to work but I stayed on in the park reading on my kindle.  The book I was reading was fascinating, "Unorthodox, the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots".  The Hasidic Jews who are an extreme sect of Haredic Judaism, regard themselves as the most religiously authentic Jews although there are other extreme sects who claim the same. They are also the most extreme or so I read.   The author is Deborah Feldman who left the sect and in her book  she gave me a close insight into the plight of women in this extreme form of Judaism.  If you thought women from Saudi Arabia have it bad, then you should read this book.  Hasidic women are nothing but baby machines, allowed no personal thoughts and their whole lives are regulated.  The sect lives as if life has stood still, rejecting modern technology, books and TV.  It must be the most stifling religion on earth.  I'm glad she left although of course that means she can now have no contact whatsoever with her family. 
The book I was reading on my kindle whilst in London
When I got tired of sitting on the dry grass, I made my way back to Baker Street to take the tube and overground to Haggerston Station which by now I knew so well. I did some shopping at Tesco, aided by a nice Pakistani woman (hate the check out machines aagghh).  I went home only to leave again a while later to meet Suzy for dinner in South Kensington. Suzy fancied Spanish food; something I had no need of as I live in Spain but I was happy to pander to her needs which I totally understood.  We booked a table at "Tendido Cero", an up market tapas bar. I watched with glee as lots of French people were dining there.  The food was actually amazing; probably better than any tapas I have ever had in Spain
Suzy at the tapas bar ,Tendido Cero on Friday night last in South Kensington
The tortilla and "patatas bravas" were a work of art.


The tapas at "Tendido Cero"·in South Kensington were amazing
After all those calories we had to walk back. I was overwhelmed by the crowds and crowds of people, mostly Arabs, in Knightsbridge. I made it as far as Bond Street where I took the tube and overground home. Suzy got a Barclays bike and we met outside Haggerston Station.  I probably would have continued walking if it hadn't been for the blisters on my feet. I wasn't surprised to see my fitbit record showing that  I had walked more than  34,000 steps that day!!

Saturday came and Suzy would be free for 3 whole days as Monday 29th August was a Bank Holiday in England.  We agreed to do something different and visit Cliveden House and Gardens. In my last post I wrote about the book I had read by Nancy Astor's maid and how Cliveden House and the Cliveden set were involved in the John Profumo scandal in the sixties.  The "notorious mansion" is an  Italianate house built in the 17th century by the River Thames and near Taplow in Buckinghamshire, it has the most amazing grounds and gardens I have ever seen apart, perhaps, from Kew Gardens. Today the grounds belong to the National Trust and the house is a luxury hotel I would love to stay at one day. The photo illustrating this post is of Suzy and I in the parterre gardens by the South Terrace of Cliveden House.
Cliveden House and the parterre by the South Terrace
To get there we took the train from Paddington which goes to Reading and got off at Taplow (30 minutes).  At the station we had to call for a taxi which took us straight to the hotel. Thus we found ourselves already in the grounds and ended up not having to pay the 10 pound entrance each.  Our visit started off with a cup of tea and coffee at the posh Astor Grill.
Suzy having a cup of coffee at the Astor Grill in Cliveden House last Saturday
From there we made our way to the beautiful Water Garden. Here we got lost in the incredible garden maze built by the first Lord Astor which I read was restored in 2011 as you can read here.  It covers a third of an acre. 
In the baffling and seemingly endless maze at Cliveden
It was in the Water Garden  where we would have our picnic; home made sandwhiches, a salad and red berry fruit.
Suzy in the pretty pavilion in the Water Garden at Cliveden House
Greedily we went for cake afterwards at the beautiful Orangery.  Suzy had two huge pieces of brownie (love it when the dietitian breaks her vegan vows hahaha) and although I wasn't hungry I had a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. No, we didn't have dinner than night hahahah.
The Orangery at Cliveden
Then it was time to see the icon of Cliveden , "the Fountain of Love" which was carved by Thomas Waldo story in 1897 out of marble and volcanic rock in Rome. It is truly magnificent. 
The fountain of love at Cliveden
Cliveden must be a gardeners' paradise. I clicked away at my camera in awe of everything I saw. We thought we couldn't see anything more beautiful until we stepped into what is called "The Long Garden". 
Suzy in the amazing Long Garden at Cliveden

To quote Wikipedia: The Italian-style Long Garden consists of topiary in the form of corkscrew-spirals, peacocks and box hedges and was designed by Norah Lindsay in c.1900. Whilst there I was happy to see a woman gardener trimming the edges off a bird shaped topiary.
A gardener trimming a topiary in The Long Garden at Cliveden.
I was reluctant to leave such a beautiful place as we left The Long Garden and walked through the woods and fields of the huge grounds.  Then we spied our last jewel, The Rose Garden which existed always at Cliveden but which was developed and has changed over the years.  The garden we saw that day was the restoration from the plans by Geoffrey Jellicoe, Lord Astor's head gardener I think.  He created a wave of colour from roses starting with white, yellow, orange, pink and then red, an incredible creation. 
Suzy in The Rose Garden at Cliveden
We were both stunned by the beauty of Cliveden and I have to go back, hopefully to stay at the hotel and show Eladio what we saw that day and what we didn't have time to see or do, such as walk along the path by the Thames where the famous mansion is set.

We had to get a cab back and our kind Pakistani driver gave us a brief history of his country on the short drive to Taplow.  Suzy left me at Paddington as she went off to get a bike to ride home.  I took the tube to Highbury and Islington where I sat waiting on the overground for the train to make the journey to Haggerston, my destination. I did not expect the bit of fun that was to come.  The carriage was full of people when a group of teenagers got on.  A girl pointed out to her friend or boyfriend who was wearing a purple shirt and holding a pink one  in his hand.  The former said out loud that she didn't trust him with the purple shirt and asked us all what we thought. One thing led to another and believe it or not after my suggestion, the boy in question took off the purple shirt to loud cries from his fellow passengers. It was a very merry moment; something I think could only happen in London hahaha.
The naked man on the overground
More men started taking off their shirts and when I got off I asked for a round of applause. I ended up getting a standing ovation which had me laughing all the way back to Suzy's flat.  You see something like this can only happen in London hahahaha.
The standing ovation I got on the Overground in London 
Both Suzy and I were dog-tired that night and not at all hungry. It was that night that I introduced her to Netflix and we would binge watch until the end of the next day, Sunday.  I was pleased to see that with my Spanish account we could see British Netflix content.  I was also jealous that there was much more choice in the UK.  Our first film was Brooklyn about a young Irish girl who emigrates to the US in the 50's. We went to bed before it finished and watched the end on Sunday whilst having our breakfast.
The first film we watched in our binge film session
Sunday came and the weather changed and it rained most of the day.  My blisters had got worse so we decided to stay in, "chillax" and watch more films on Netflix.  

Our next film was Oranges and Sunshine about secret Government backed mass deportations of underprivileged children to Australia and other countries such as New Zealand and South Africa to populate The Empire with white people. The problem was they didn't know where they were going and nor did their parents, some of whom thought they had been adopted in the UK.  I had read the book, Empty Cradles, by the social worker Margaret Humphries who set up an association in the 80's to find the "children's" mothers.  The majority of them had been appallingly treated and abused in their countries of destination.   Both Suzy and I were riveted with Oranges and Sunshine, things that were promised to these children to lure them to the "colonies".
The excellent film Oranges and Sunshine based on a true story.
After this tragic story it was time for something more light.  We found it in "A Royal Night Out". This is a comedy based on the true story of the Royal Princesses, Margaret and Elizabeth who persuaded their parents King George VI and their Mother, the Late Queen Mother, to go out and join the crowds on VE day that marked the end of the Second World War. It was a purely beautiful film with a lot of fiction of course but thoroughly entertaining.
A very entertaining film, A Royal Night Out
In need of a night out ourselves or rather a walk, we stopped our binge watching briefly and went out to do some food shopping for our dinner. Suzy took me to nearby Shoreditch to the Sainsbury's there.
Shopping at Sainsbury's in Shoreditch
On our way back we stopped at a couple of organic shops, Suzy's favourite. They are not mine but do stock some very interesting stuff.  

Once home and during our dinner we watched our last but one film, "Testament of Youth", a tragic love story set in the First World War and based on the autobiography by Vera Brittain who was one of the few women of her times to go to Oxford. She lost both her young husband and brother in the war and also became a nurse not just in London but also in France behind the trenches to be near her brother.  I have since downloaded her book which at the time was a bestseller but found it rather uphill. The film, however, is wonderful.
The film Testament of Youth which we both loved
Our last film was a Spanish one called Palm Trees in the Snow (Palmeras en la nieve), another love story, this time set in Equatorial Guinea.  We loved every minute of it and I would watch it again and again and again.  It stars the beautiful Adriana Ugarte and Mario Casas, so no wonder. I since heard that the two of them are romantically involved which I was happy to hear, even if in the film they are Father and daughter.
Palm Trees in the Snow, a beautiful Spanish film set in Equatorial Guinea just before it became independent in 1968
Monday was a Bank Holiday and the sun came out again.  We decided to go to Kew Gardens for the day. I had been once but it would be Suzy's first time.  They are the most famous botanical gardens in the world with the world's largest and most diverse collection of living plants

I bought the tickets online thus avoiding the long queues at the main entrance (Victoria Gate).  
Palm House, the iconic amazing green house near the main entrance of Kew Gardens
Once again we took a picnic and sat eating it by this beautiful view of the lake.
The spot where we had our picnic at The Royal Botanical Kew Gardens
From there we walked to the Japanese gardens  and visited the Mika House and bamboo garden. 

At the Japanese Gardens
 Here people leave wishes on the leaves which I thought was a lovely idea. From there we walked to the Sackler Crossing, the first bridge across the lake.
Suzy by the Sackler crossing at Kew Gardens
This lead us to the Tree Tops Walkway.  Suzy dared go up the steep steps but quickly came down to say it moved. I can't stand heights so came away from the queue to the lift.
The Tree Tops Walkway at Kew Gardens which I didn't dare walk on 
Nearby was another key attraction, the Japanese tall pagoda which I actually thought was rather ugly. With time on our hands we wondered over to the other side of the gardens where The Orangery café is. We didn't go in as it was teeming with people.  Instead we sat in the field looking over Kew Palace, my favourite spot at the Gardens.
The field by Kew Palace 
It dates back to 1631 but was obviously renovated in the Georgian style later on and is famous for housing George III when he was ill with mental health, to keep him out of the eye of the public. We visited the beautiful Grade 1 listed "Dutch House"  which has been restored and some of the items of the times are still there today. 
Suzy in the dining room at Kew Palace
The Palace has its own gardens, known as Queen Charlotte's or The Queen's Garden and this I love.  Apart from an ornamental garden of the times, it also includes a medicinal herbal garden too.
The Queen's Garden at Kew Palace.
After enjoying a quick visit to the nearby Royal Kitchens, our last top attraction was The Palm House on our way out.  By now we were tired but still able to admire the amazing tropical plants there such as pineapple palm trees among others.
A pineapple growing at the Palm House at Kew Gardens
Before leaving we visited the shop which I remembered was very good. I bought some wonderful soap, a 2017 Kew Gardens desk diary and a mug for Suzy to remember the visit every time she drinks coffee in the morning.

Our day hadn't finished.  As Suzy would be going back to work the next day, our only time for shopping together would be that afternoon. So off we went to Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford which is about 50 minutes on the overground but at least there are no changes. Armed with a shopping list we went to Marks and Spencer's which I bet doesn't surprise you.  We also went to Boots, Lakeland (super kitchen store) and the Carphone Warehouse as we both were in dire need of a battery power bank for our mobile phones.  

We were home by 8.15 and had a lovely itsy bitsy M+S dinner (crab meat and prawns for me) whilst watching the end of Palm Trees in the Snow. All in all it was a wonderful day.

On Tuesday Suzy went off to work and I was left alone at home with her flat mate Anita. But I had an engagement for lunch.  I was meeting Gill H, my own flat mate at Nottingham University when she was a law student and I a student of Hispanic Studies. We have kept in touch over the years.  We arranged to meet at Spitalfield's market at a fish and chips place, the latter at my request, at Poppies. We met a little early so as to take a walk around before eating. The last time we had met was for dinner at Suzy's flat in South Bermondsey just over a year ago.

Gill wanted me to see her favourite church in London, Christ Church in Spitalfields. 
Christ Church in Spitalfields by Nicholas Hawksmoor built in 1729 and restored in 2004
It was built between 1714 and 1729 by Christopher Wren's disciple, Nicholas Hawksmoor. It was one of the first churches to be built as a result of the New Churches Act or Commission.  50 were planned but only 12 were built, 6 by Hawksmoor and they became known as The Queen Anne Churches. The polite reason for their construction was for the increasing population of London but the real reason was to counteract the rising debauchery of those times. That was a nice bit of history, thank you Gill. 

From church history we went to the more profane or earthly activity of fish and chips for lunch. But wow were they delicious. Great choice Gill!
Fish and chips at Poppies in Spitalfields 
We had to have a photo on our way out so Gill abruptly stopped a young French girl, handing my phone to her as if she were a friend. Ha ha ha, one day when we do that again someone may just run off with it. But the French girl didn't thankfully and this is her photo of us; friends since 1977 or was it 1978?
Gill and I outside Poppies the fish and chip shop in Spitalfields.
The world is very small indeed because it turned out that Gill has been living in Haggerston, around the corner from where Suzy now lives, for 15 years or so. We were both gobsmacked but delighted too and walked home together.  She invited me for a cup of tea at her amazing renovated Georgian house. She lives in the basement which is actually part of the original garden and rents the rest of the house in two flats.  It was so nice to be somewhere so beautiful, clean and swish in Hackney.
Gill's house in Haggerston, Hackney, round the corner from where Suzy now lives.
My next appointment was meeting Suzy in Tottenham Court Road at Planet Organic, the company she used to work for. Whilst at Tottenham Court I made one last entry into an M+S to get 5 packs of their "essential kitchen wipes" which I can't live without - that's a bit of an exaggeration hahaha. I also got a lovely tin of biscuits for my Father or rather the tin is for me and the biscuits for him.  

Apart from shopping for a few items at Planet Organic we were to meet up with an ex colleague there, Angela who described herself as Suzy's only English friend. I remarked that it was possibly because my daughter lives in a sort of Spanish and other nationality bubble to which Suzy laughed out loud and told me it was the English who don't want to mix with them. That really hurt me. Imagine! Angela, a fellow nutritionist, was a darling and we went to to have a drink at the most delightful place, The Charlotte Street Hotel.  I loved it. Suzy had a gin tonic, Angela a glass or red wine and I had a bottle of vintage English cider.
The Little Charlotte Hotel where we had a drink with Suzy's "only English friend" on my last night in London.
I was up early on Wednesday morning, my last in London. It was to be my final breakfast with Suzy too and an emotional goodbye. We had a great time together and I can't wait to see her again at the end of September for the family wedding.

I spent the morning "chillaxing" and slowly packing and getting ready to go. I ordered an Addison Lee taxi to take me to Victoria and I was at LGW by 3 or so. My flight wasn't until 5.40 which gave me plenty of time to have a late lunch and to read whilst I waited to depart.  Again the flight with Easy Jet was incident free and I was in Madrid by 9.15 p m.  Dear Eladio was there to pick me up and it was great to see him. It was wonderful to be home, to see the dogs and to sleep in my own bed but above all it was wonderful to come home to a super clean house after dirty and grimy London.  I'm not sure Madrid is that much cleaner but I think so; certainly people's houses, that's for sure. 

It took ages to unpack my crammed suitcase full of quirky purchases made at M+S. Boots, Lakeland, etc and plenty of things for my Father, Eladio, Olis and a token something for Salud (luxury Harrods soap). 

I had not followed the news since I had been away, or only cursorily and came home to hear that the Spanish PP party was in difficulty to get enough votes from Parliament to govern (170 vs the 176 needed), thanks to the opposition from a twit called Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the socialist party.  This means we could be facing the 3rd general elections since the spring and on Christmas Day would you believe it? In the last round of voting on Friday night this was confirmed. 

Thursday was 1st September and my first day home.  I had walked so much in London I skipped on our walk that day. Sorry dogs!  I spent a quiet day  at home, enjoying lunch with my Father and telling him all about my trip. The afternoon I dedicated to reading quietly by the pool. I started on Julian Fellowe's Belgravia which is not really living up to my expectations.  We bathed too which was a joy and Pippa joined me, in my arms of course and only up to her neck hahaha.

Natasha, our substitute home help and carer for when Salud goes on holiday soon, came to spend the night and the next day to learn the routine.  She is from the Ukraine and was pleasantly surprised to see my Father speaks Russian. I heard them and it made me happy. 

Dinner was on the terrace and was thanks to my purchases at M+S. I made a wonderful crab meat salad with avocado and we also ate some of the organic humus I bought at Planet Organic which I must say is the best I have ever tasted. For the record crab meat is my favourite food. Well I love lobster too so they are both in my number one spot hahaha.
Crab meat salad from M+S with avocado and lettuce, just delicious.
 Afterwards it was back to watching House of Cards on Netflix. We are on episode 33 and it seems there are not many left, or are there?

Friday was a quiet day. I had some work to do; not much but some catching up.  I also did the food shopping with Eladio. There is nothing like that to know you are back home and to your routine which I am of course.  I spent part of the afternoon writing this post until I took a break.  Being Friday we went out for dinner and chose La Txitxarrería where we are always welcomed.  

And today is Saturday and joy of joys Olivia is here, although I haven't seen her yet as she arrived late last night.  We haven't  seen her since we went to Montrondo for Santa Marta and I look forward to spending some quality mother and daughter time together.

Well that's it for this week, or rather the last 10 days.  Now my holidays are over which is rather sad but at least we shall continue to have great weather.

I hope you enjoy this post and look forward to writing again next week,

Cheers till then
Masha











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