Vermouth masterclass at Mele e Pere: a ridiculous London bargain

White and red vermouths, handmade in Mele e Pere, and a really fearsomely disgusting hyper-dark vermouth which I am not adult enough to enjoy

White and red vermouths, handmade in Mele e Pere, and a really fearsomely disgusting hyper-dark vermouth which I am not adult enough to enjoy

With Elizabeth locked away in her flat until she’s finished the first draft of The Book (I know I’m biased, but bloody hell it is SO GOOD), we put a date in the diary weeks ago for a catch up.

“Erm, do you fancy a vermouth tasting?” she said. I assured her that I am on board with pretty much anything that is suffixed by the word “tasting” and we duly booked, and headed off to the vermouth bar in the basement of Mele e Pere, an Italian restaurant on Brewer Street just across the road from the Glasshouse pub.

Now, let’s have a quick pause for you to sign up, because I haven’t encountered this sort of ridiculously good value in London in aeons. Mele e Pele’s vermouth masterclass is £15. FIFTEEN POUNDS. For reasons that will soon become apparent, this isn’t so much a steal as a giveaway by an incredibly courteous saint. Continue reading

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The Mousdashe: aka Brockwell Hills 9021-OW

Brixton Mousdashe

Where’s Wally? Wearing the bobble hat, obvs (Photo: The Mousdashe)

I like to claim that I never get ill, conveniently forgetting the three or so times a year that I get flu and then wig out completely, but my running since the fun-size Snickers has been utterly sabotaged by, if not being bedbound, then having symptoms that made running extremely unlikely. I went running on my birthday at the start of November, but since then my running has all but petered out, with me just going “Oh, I’m a bit tired now” and stopping where once I would just have carried on going, like Dory with feet. Continue reading

Kat Semetery

What I always like to do at a dinner party is brightly whip out my iPad and show everyone pictures of my day in a cemetery.

That isn’t actually true, but it occurred at this particular dinner party, which while not quite up with the soup from hell disaster of last October, had so many teething problems that I’m amazed I didn’t just burst into tears when my friends arrived.

It’s sod’s law that the one time you’d particularly like your Competent Human mode to function, the fates conspire against you. So, in prep:

  • I spilled candle wax all over my kitchen and clothes while cleaning out my storm lamps (this is not a euphemism but it absolutely should be
  • While putting beer up on the shelves, I put the box the wrong way round and three bottles fell out resulting in a terrifying jumble of limbs, screaming, and smashing all over the floor
  • The wine was corked. All of it. I had 18 bottles
  • My completely trusted casserole threw an unprecedented fit of not quite working
  • My first guest, who I was hoping to impress, had to go to the shop and get some different wine
  • I felt utterly guiltbarrassed
  • The guiltbarrassment caused my brain to short circuit so I put the plates in the oven for an hour instead of 10 minutes

That aside, it was a wonderful evening with tremendous people. Nobody died! That’s pretty much all you can hope for in such a perfect storm of incident.

So, those are the circumstances that lead to me showing people pictures of Nunhead Cemetery in the middle of a dinner party at all. I wasn’t just hanging around it for the lolz, although I am a Victorian at heart, but for a volunteer day with the office and Groundwork UK.

vol-510

Continue reading

Write Club goes to Canadamerica!

Prince Edward Island: how OUTRAGEOUSLY gorgeous is that?

Prince Edward Island: how OUTRAGEOUSLY gorgeous is that?

At the end of June, Elizabeth and I are going to Canada and New England! On a cruise!

This is a joy for many reasons.

1) I have never been to either. I have been dying to. I was actually planning an autumn trip to stalk those lovely New England leaves when this came through.

2) Elizabeth and I had just re-read the Emily of New Moon trilogy by LM Montgomery, arguably one of the best series ever written. (Way better than the Anne books, but it will take this post wildly off-course if I start talking about why.) Continue reading

Running like a girl

My last run! So proud

My last run! So proud

Many’s the time that I’ve said a book has changed my life. I just never thought one would change the way I think about running.

I never thought I’d love running because I never thought I was capable. Running at school was more like a punishment than anything, a cold, lactic torture based entirely around muddy laps in winter. When I moved to London I walk-sludged Race for Life a couple of times, and optimistically did a very, very slow 10k round a horrible industrial estate in rainy Wembley when I was 24, but these were reluctant Things One Did For Charity. I never trained or got into it, just looked up from whatever I was drinking and smoking and went “Oh, okay then”. I didn’t even have kit. I did the 10k in high-waisted shorts from Primark like your classic unprepared dickhead. Continue reading

It’s hard the Shard stays mainly in the clard


I’ve wanted to go up to the top of The Shard for ages – or at least, ever since I stopped worrying that something was going to crash into it and destroy SE1. So when I got a call asking if I’d like a ticket, I obviously squeaked to the affirmative, even if I’d only be up there for 10 minutes, having to beetle across town to The Audience.

Yesterday was not a good evening. Unless you were John Carpenter.

view from the shard (1)

Mind, it hadn’t exactly been a great day either. But a trip up The Shard is a trip up The Shard! Anyway, we got there hugely early, and the staff very kindly said we could go up a bit before we were scheduled to. So we filled in time in the gift shop. Now, I love a gift shop – I actually did a little “gift shop!” sigh when we were told to wait there. But wow, there is some awful shit in there. Some lovely wall prints and silk scarves aside, everything looks as though it’s been bought off the back of a lorry and screenprinted. Continue reading

Trying to find a witty but appropriate headline for a blog about a homeless shelter, failing

It’s a cliché that you must learn something valuable from volunteering. As though, rather than something you do to help or to fill your spare time, it’s Lucy’s cordial, healing you and making you feel all warm inside.

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes it isn’t, and you just spend a few hours wringing your hands and feeling utterly useless.

When I walked into my church’s community centre last Friday, I felt useless. I was spending the evening as a host at our night shelter for the homeless (part of London’s Robes project, a church-run winter night shelter which operates from November to March). Just one evening, but as I’d learned from the bad weeks on the hospital ward, there’s nothing worse than standing around. Continue reading

Pinstrosity Challenge: Shaun the Sheep cake

Smart Mama's Shaun the Sheep cake

How gorgeous is this?

As with so many things that bring me joy, it started with Buzzfeed. 17 Pinterest fails, before and after shots showing the delectable craft/bake dream, and the hilariously godawful reality.

My lust for schadenfreude required more,  and so I found Pinstrosity, an amazing blog that provides both the from-the-gut walrus mirth honks I require from my craft fails, as well as providing helpful tips on why they have gone wrong and how to remedy it for next time. (90% of problems are because the crafter/baker didn’t follow the instructions to the letter). Continue reading

Sometimes you just need to set your writing on fire and stamp it to death in the street

I don’t know what I was expecting when I signed up to Frances Taylor and Charlie ‘Ultraculture’ Lyne’s new writing venture Burn Night. It certainly wasn’t writing something that I was really proud of. And it definitely wasn’t watching someone set fire to it half an hour later.

I met Katie Khan of Awkward Situations for Girls fame at Charing Cross and we trudged over to Pall Mall to the wildly arty ICA, the pair of us carved out of a wildly unarty wool and waterproofs combo. Katie just started the Faber Academy course and will likely be on your Christmas reading list come 2014, but as I’ve done nothing since October apart from 3hundredand65 and transcribing all the voice memos I make on the lovely winding route back home at night, I needed to do something.

(You can tell we were keen because we were a) out at night b) out at night in winter c) out on a Sunday night in winter and Katie was missing her mum’s roast dinner.)

The 40-odd people piled into the Studio had applied to take part, and there was some joshing around at the beginning, literally, about a poor chap who’d written in but had just missed the cut. Charlie and Frances made a poster apologising.

sorry josh pappenheim burn night

Well. If anything is going to make you feel a bit smug around the edges, it’s hearing about people who missed the cut. IF ONLY WE’D KNOWN. Continue reading