D4D

In the firing squad when the revolution comes

Archive for the category “Travel”

Knocked Down

After the events of last week, I pretty much exhausted myself – as evidenced by the fact that since then I’ve been dealing with a heavy cold and nascent chest infection.  It started up on the evening of the Thursday, once we were back from the Fat Duck. (Of which more in other post, most likely)

As usual, basically it all kicked in once I’d stopped. It’s pretty standard with me – I can keep on going for as long as I have to, and then once I’m done, it’ll all catch up and whack me with a hammer.

I was rough on the Friday, and the Saturday was the worst, although I hadn’t realised how bad it was until too late. I’d been at the parents and doing some other stuff, and started to drive home. I’d not been feeling great, but it was only once I was driving that I knew it wasn’t good. I’d burned myself out completely, and all I could do was just get home and that was it.

For the first time in at least a decade (and that’s something else I’ll come back to in another post) I found myself thinking that I wished I’d got someone else around, someone to call on, so I could get home safely. It didn’t happen, of course, so I just got on with the task in hand, and got myself home.

I’m truly not proud of it, of having carried on and done the dumb thing instead of pulling into a layby or whatever and having a sleep. I did get home, and did so safely, with no problems. But that was, to be honest, more by luck than judgement.  I honestly can’t remember at least half the drive, but I know that if anything had gone awry, I’d have remembered it, so that’s kind-of sort-of reassuring in some warped way.

I effectively took Sunday off after that, changed all my plans so I could do as close to sod-all as I’d let myself do, and it was needed.

It’s all on the mend now, but man, that weekend was really no fun at all.

 

Varied

So, this week is somewhat varied in its activities.

Yesterday was John Wick Chapter 2.

This evening I’m off to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, talking about his newest book, “Norse Mythology“, his latest book. (And collecting a signed copy into the bargain)

Tomorrow, I’m off for a meal at the Fat Duck with friends, and driving them all there and back.

There’s stuff lined up for the weekend too, but that little lot should keep me going for a while anyway…

Surf vs Turf, Blues Kitchen

Last night, I went with a friend to one of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch.  I’ve been going there fairly regularly over the last eighteen months or so, but usually on a weekend. This time was different though – they had organised a three day “Surf vs Turf” event, bringing in the chef team from Extra Fancy in the US to ‘do battle’ with the team from Blues Kitchen, with a special menu (including cocktails)  to play with.

And it was epic.

Once it had been announced on Twitter, I had booked in straight away. For me, it was a no-brainer, I wanted to try it. And I am so glad I did.

As well as the food and drinks, it meant we got to spend time with some of the people we’ve been talking to on most of the visits, talked about what was good on the menu, what they should be keeping, and even got introduced to one of the owners of the group that owns Blues Kitchen. For me, that’s what makes Blues Kitchen stand out from every other place in a similar vein – the people make it, even more than the food.

Between the two of us, we had everything on the menu – including the cocktails. Plus a couple of things that were so good we had two…

I’m hard-pressed to even decide what the best things were – it was all good, and most of it was great. Hell, even the cocktails were awesome.

All told, a great night, and a type of event I hope Blues Kitchen repeat – there’s plenty of opportunity, with lots of different kitchens and teams that would be up for it, I’m sure.

An evening at home

Tonight is the first evening this week that I’ve actually been at home, and not working. It truly has been one of those weeks, despite my best-laid plans for calming things down this month.

So what’s been happening?

  • Monday was in the South Bank Centre in London, seeing a talk by Stephen Hawking, and a small celebration of his life in the week of his 75th birthday.  When I got the tickets, he’d been supposed to be there in person, but ill-health meant his speech and question/answer session were conducted on video screen instead. Disappointing, but fair warning of this had been given, and it was still a good evening. It would’ve been great to see him in person, but there we go.
    Interestingly, the event was sold out, but on the night it was only about half full. I suspect that a lot of people decided to not bother going, once they knew it would ‘only’ be a video appearance. Anyway, their loss.
  • Tuesday was at home, but doing a bundle of work that needed doing because….
  • Wednesday was back in London, taking the parents to see the matinee performance of Amadeus at the National Theatre. Which was bloody excellent, and will probably be written about more in another post. Having seen it, I then drove the parents home, and got back to mine about 11pm. Looong day!
  • Thursday evening was at the cinema, seeing the truly ridiculous (and thoroughly entertaining) xXx 3 – The return of Xander Cage.  A film so bad and ludicrous that it went full-circle and was stupidly brilliant.

Even today has been spent on-site rather than in my own office, so it’s still been harder on the braincells than it could’ve been.

All told, a bloody long – but also good – week, and one where I’m really quite happy to have nothing lined up for the weekend, so I can spend some time vegetating. Seems like a plan to me.

2017 Inspirations – Photography

As things change for me in 2017 – well, as I do new stuff, or restart old stuff – I’m hoping/intending/planning to write more about it here on D4D as well, along with things about what’s driving those choices.  So there’s a new subject/category to cover it all.  And this is where it all starts.

As long-term readers know, I was into photography for a long time, did pretty well at it, and even ended up taking a course while I was in Norfolk in order to better understand what the hell I was trying to do.

But since Norfolk and Suffolk, I’ve been doing a lot less photography. Some of that is due to my mobile phone, where the pixel count is higher than the SLR I still have. It’s also about faff – lugging an SLR around for the day (particularly when doing anything else, like one of my idiotically long walks) is a hefty job anyway, and it’s simply never ready for a quick photo. Using the SLR is a much bigger commitment in many ways, and over the last four years, I really haven’t been making that commitment.

This year, I want to change that, and do more where I actually go out with the SLR, with the intention of taking photos.

The first real inspiration for that has been this story on the BBC, of Dean Saunderson’s photos of a deserted Nottingham on Christmas morning. It’s something that works for me, having been to many places at ungodly-o’clock, and seeing them with very few people around. Oxford, for example, is beautiful at 5am on a summer Sunday morning – and the same applies for many other cities. So this is a theme/topic/idea I could get into, and will probably have a few goes at over this year.

We’ll see at the end of the year how I do on these inspirations. It’s going to be a year where I (hopefully) figure out more about the things I want to continue doing, and which ones I’ll be happier to leave by the wayside in order to do other things.

Eating Out – The 2016 Summary

In all over this year, I’ve had 22 Michelin-starred meals in 18 places, for a total of 36 stars all told.  I’ve tried to keep a wide range through the year, from pubs-with-stars through to some of the most spectacular-looking dining destinations in the UK.  In no particular order, I’ve been to…

  • Three-star
    • Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hotel, London
    • Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire
  • Two-star
    • Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel, London (three times, including tonight)
    • Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham (twice)
    • Midsummer House, Cambridge
    • Hibiscus, London (now closed)
    • Hand and Flowers, Marlow
    • Manoir aux Quat Saison, Great Missenden, Oxon (for my Birthday, no less!)
    • Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, London
    • The Ledbury, London
    • Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel, London
  • One star
    • House of Tides, Newcastle (twice)
    • Raby Hunt, Summerhouses, Darlington
    • Pony & Trap, Chew Magna, Bristol
    • Paris House, Woburn, Beds
    • Benares, London
    • Alimentum, Cambridge
    • Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Oxon

Interestingly, neither of the three-starred places count anywhere notable on my favourites.  In my opinion the best restaurants of the year have been

  • 1st= Hélène Darroze
  • 1st= Midsummer House
  • 3rd= Hibiscus
  • 3rd= House of Tides

The best meals, on the other hand, is a smaller list – the top three would be…

  • Hélène Darroze – the second visit
  • Hélène Darroze – the first visit
  • Midsummer House

Yes, Darroze really is that good (in my opinion, of course – others may vary)

Alongside that, honorable mentions go to

  • Wild Rabbit – any other year, it would certainly have been in the top three, and indeed I’d say it’s probably number four/five in the list
  • Marcus – much as I dislike the man himself, I can’t deny that the meal was bloody marvellous

There are other places I still want to go (and I’m considering another Scotland visit at some point in 2017) but I won’t be going to anywhere like as many as this year.  I’ve massively enjoyed it, and I truly don’t want to become blase about the entire thing.

Waiting Around

I wrote a while back about how bad I am at doing nothing – something I hadn’t properly realised before this year.

In a related way, I’ve also found I’m not great at days when the only thing I’ve got planned is in the evening. It’s not too bad during the week, because I’ve done stuff during the day, and then just adding bits in the evenings.

But on weekends, it’s not the same. There’ve been a few days this year where I’ve had afternoon or evening stuff planned, and it’s left me feeling like I’m at a bit of a loss in the mornings, like it’s kind of freeweheeling a bit, not knowing quite what I want to do, or where I want to be.

Honestly, it’s not a feeling I’m overly comfortable with – I like having a plan, and getting on with it. Being in a holding pattern ’til later in the day isn’t something I do well.

I’m more aware of this now, and come 2017, I’ll be making better plans, knowing this about myself. If I’ve got something in the evening, I’ll also do something in a similar area earlier in the day – or just get better at having a half-day.

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