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Archive for the category “Single Life”

Changing Plants

Over the weekend, I spent some time changing the plants and pots I’ve got in the yard of my house.

Some of the things from last year had died off, most having only been expected to live a year, a couple of others just needed to be changed and a one needed to be replaced as the poxy cat had decided that pot was a spare litter tray.  Additionally, I’d changed a bit on what I wanted to try out this year.

For example, last year I had a couple of small apple trees in patio pots. One had done OK, but ended the year overtaken by wooly aphid things that made it look like it was covered in frost/snow/cotton-wool, while the other hadn’t taken at all.  So they were candidates for going as well.

This time, I went to a proper garden centre, and got a bundle of new things – two types of raspberry, a blueberry bush, and a couple of flowering currants.  Once I’d got home, I emptied out the old pots, putting all the residue into garden sacks. Then all the new things got planted, and so far it’s all worked out pretty well.

The final stage was taking all the garden sacks to the local tip, and getting rid of them all in the garden waste.

So all told, quite the successful day – a near-complete change of the plants, and all the rubbish dealt with, leaving the place looking pretty much how it did before, just with new plants.  I class that as a success.

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…

Valentinage

And here we are, once again, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day – one of the most pointless ‘special occasions’ known to man.

In a break with tradition, I’m being good this year.  The last few years, I’ve been an absolute dickhead, but not this year.

What I have been doing is booking a table for two at a restaurant for the evening of Feb 14th, and then going on my own.  It really messes with people, to be there, looking sad and abandoned on Valentine’s Day.

If I’m in a particularly cruel mood, I’ve also taken along a ring-box, putting it on the table.  That really gets to people.

 

This year though, I’m not doing it.  Instead, I’m off to see John Wick 2. Which will be mental, ridiculous, and hugely entertaining.

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.

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.

Beginnings

The first week of the year’s started well so far, with a fair amount of preparation being done for the rest of the year.

Among other things, I’ve signed myself up for a couple of training programmes for more technical stuff, as well as laying out some plans and concepts for the main development things I want to work on this year.  I’m currently hoping to have got at least one of them launched by the end of January, so I can see how it develops.

Along the way, I’ve figured out a couple of starting points for writing as well, which may or may not work out.

So it’s all a bit promising for now. We’ll see how it works out.

And not to be ignored, I’ve also started work on losing some of the weight I put on over December. It’s safe to say, I’m not overly happy with how much got put on (although I’m not back to where I started this time in 2016, so it could be worse) in the space of a month, but as we’re now back to a point where I can (and will) eat more sensibly again, it should all work out OK in the end.

Onwards and upwards, and all that piss.

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.

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