Two weeks ago this weekend, John and I spent a very nice weekend in London with our friends. Children and dog spent the weekend at the luxury five star accommodation that is my parents' house where they were all completely spoiled and had a wonderful time, while John and I enjoyed some child free time doing the kind of things the children don't always want to do, like visit art galleries.
We arrived Friday evening, straight from work and, after dropping off bags at the hotel and a quick change of clothes, met up with our friends for a drink then went a wonderful meal here. The food and service were excellent but the best thing was the atmosphere: a restaurant full of the sound of people talking, laughing clattering cutlery - that sound I missed so much during the lockdowns of people just enjoying being together.
On Saturday morning we caught a boat up the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich.
This was a lot of fun and I did think the kids would enjoy seeing London by boat.
We spent a very happy couple of hours wandering around Greenwich village, looking at the market and buying food for lunch from the street food stalls. There wasn't time to see the observatory or look around the Cutty Sark boat but, again, I did think Bella and Angus (especially Angus!) would enjoy Greenwich and mentally book-marked it for a future trip to London.
We spent the rest of Saturday exploring central London, stopping now and then for coffee, just enjoying not having a particular destination or small children to entertain.
We spent Sunday morning in the Tate Modern. We probably saw about a tenth of the exhibits but it was so good and I did think the children would enjoy it too - lots of talking points with the different exhibits and installations.
The views from the gallery windows are so good.
A few souvenirs did find their way home with me, including these fingerless gloves (wrist warmers?) which I bought at Greenwich Market. They are incredibly warm and I have been wearing them all week.
I also bought this excellent tea towel from the Tate Modern gift shop. I love the names of all the colours, so full of history.
It's hard to read the names from the photo but if you go here to this link for the poster, you can see it in more detail and with a much better quality photo too.
The rest of half term was spent battling germs and trying to impose some sort of order on the house and garden. We don't have a cleaner and I don't have much free time, so the most cursory housework gets done during term time. The essentials: changing beds, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping the kitchen floor. So during the holidays I do like to try and have a good sort out and clean, the kind of cleaning where you move objects and furniture, rather than dusting around them....
Both John and I came down with a shocking head cold which left us feeling really quite wiped out and low on energy, but as always there were walks to be had with out little four legged terror.
He only sits for treats. Don't go thinking he's well trained.
But the woods really are glorious at the moment. Being around trees in the autumn (and the spring, for the bluebells and wild garlic) is one of my favourite things.
With the help of my endlessly kind parents, we did a lot of work on cutting back bushes and shrubs in the back and front gardens over half term. I also planted up this flower bed (the old shed used to live here) with a fig that had outgrown its pot and a camellia for spring colour, plus a bay tree because I like to have one in the garden for cooking. I really wanted a border that would attract pollinators, so back in August I planted an echinacea and a couple of lavenders. Then, over half term, I moved some of the dahlias I grew from seed last year which have almost finished flowering. Our garden always looks its best in early summer so I really wanted plants which would do well in August and September. I have planted the dahlias quite deep, and plan to over-winter them in the ground, cutting them back to about 6 inches when the leaves start to blacken after the first frost and leaving the tubers there. I'm not sure what to do about the dahlias in pots, whether to leave them or take out the tubers and store them in the shed. But at the moment they are still flowering. In November!
There was baking, including this very good apple and ginger cake. It uses a lot of ginger, which is fine by me, but does need to be eaten up fairly quickly as the apples on the top of the cake go mouldy if left in the tin for more than a few days.
I have started - tentatively - to think about Christmas althought that's all I've done so far, think about it. I recently bought a really wonderful book called Zero Waste: Christmas and have found it to be one of the most inspiring craft books I've seen for a really long time. It's brilliant. This advent train reminded me so much of the toilet roll nativity set the children and I made when they were really little (that seems like a different life!). I don't think I'll make this but there is a whole section with "scandi-inspired" crafts and decorations that did really speak to me....