Lighting Up my World

I love what I call ‘house porn’. It’s a definite thing for me. I love flicking through impossibly glossy magazines, and websites (this one is particularly good), salivating over houses that I can only dream of owning.

When I hear the ‘thud’ of Living Etc through my letter box (*BBC voice* other interiors magazines are available) I know I’ve got an escapist couple of hours imagining myself in those amazing settings.  Pretend as I do, I also use these images and bigger ideals as a springboard to create something more in keeping with a flat in Tooting. That lampshade/mirror maybe way beyond my price range, but if there’s a way I can either recreate it myself, or source it, or a lookalike for much cheaper, then why not? In an attempt to recreate a more up to the minute look, or to look for something specific for my ex-local authority dwelling (in the 80s this would have been labelled ‘compact and bijoux’) I have recently discovered the delights of Pinterest. How late am *I* to the party?! I know. a recent discover – thank god, or I don’t think I’d have passed any exams, ever. For the very few of you that are unfamiliar with its all-encompassing delights, a precis: Remember going through magazines when you were a teenagers, ripping out pages, with hair/makeup/clothes etc. which were keep in folders to become more and more dog-eared until they eventually disintegrated or got thrown away?  The ones you never looked at. Yes? Will this is like that, but on the computer!  No mess, no paper and you can file it all under different headings, or ‘boards’. Genius eh?

Recently I’ve been trying to put ‘finishing touches’ to my flat, (hey, I’ve only been here 10 years!), but I think it pays not to rush into anything…..

Chez Wurzel I’m big on light fittings/fixtures/shades, whatever you want to call them. It’s amazing how desolate a bare lightbulb can look, far too reminiscent of student digs – apart from these absolutely beautiful Lee Broom specimens.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

Lee Broome Crystal Bulb

Lee Broom lightbulb

In a small ex-local authority block in SW London, choosing lampshades and lights that are a little out of the ordinary can really make a difference, well I think so anyway. This hall light is from Uniche Interiors Furnishings.

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Mercury Glass Diamond Pendant, £130

My first purchase, even though I didn’t know where I was going to hang it at time is a semi-antique chandelier bought for the bargain sum of £30 in Brick Lane market, granted I was lucky that they stall owner was going on holiday the next day, or so he said, but I bought it because I loved it.  I confess it spent six months  hanging from a clothes airer in the middle of my sitting room and before that it was sitting in a bag under my coffee table – in pieces, for about 2 years. My bad.

Kerb 2014 089Here a little close up. It took *hours* to clean and put together!Kerb 2014 090

and it’s now hanging in the sitting room….phone pics 487Graham & Green have something similar:
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Graham & Green, £230

It’s a bit pricier admittedly, but check out Ebay too.

Graham & Green also had these beautiful lampshades, which I’d lusted after for ages:

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Feather lampshades here, £59, £84 and £325

 I searched on-line and found one from B&Q for £28.  And here it is in situ!

Kerb 2014 092and a bit of detail:Kerb 2014 085

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Here it is all lit up!

Last, but not least, I’d seen these really cool marquee lights at Made:

Broadway Arrow Table Lamp Black £89

Arrow Broadway Table Lamp, £79 (was £89)

Nice aren’t they?   I eventually bought this one as I wanted something coloured from Not On The High Street

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Sadly, I can’t find it on the website, so I don’t think they sell them anymore, but similar are here.

So there’s my edit on lighting….there’s lots to choose from, I only wish I had more rooms!

PS Graham & Green are celebrating their 40th Anniversary and to mark this auspicious occasion, have opened up their first showroom, at The Perfume Factory, 140 Wales Farm Road, W3

Images: John Lewis,  Uniche Interiors, Graham & Green, Made

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An afternoon with Jose Pizarro

The other day Twitter came up with something rather wonderful, (I was supposed to be writing, but, you know…Twitter) via @LondONtheinside, there was the offer of a FREE cookery lesson with José Pizarro and The Good Life Embassy. FREE I tell you!

There were three time slots on offer:

10.30am – 12pm Spanish Brunch
1pm – 2.30pm Spanish lunch tapas
3pm – 4.30pm Spanish ‘tea’ and cocktails

I decided that tea and cocktails sounded right up my calle.  Food and booze, were promised (the confirmation email ask me to bring ‘a healthy appetite’) and of course a demo by the lovely José. What’s not to love?

I’ll start by apologising for the quality of some of the photos, which could be candidates for Dimly Lit Meals for One, (this is an hilarious blog, check it out).  My camera phone/hand co-ordination wasn’t at its best, but I hope they give you a flavour of what was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

So last Saturday afternoon I arrived to be ticked off the list. The Great Little Embassy had taken over the whole of Pizarro (194 Bermondsey Street, SE1) for the occasion and there were lovely people from both the restaurant and company looking after us (thanks – you were all fabulous!).

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We learnt that everything we were going to eat and drink on the day would be using the wonderful Olive Oils of Spain (did you know that there are more varieties of olive in Spain than anywhere else? You do now.)

First off we were offered a choice of either Olive Oil Fizz or Olive Oil Martini. I went for the martini:

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It was glorious, citrussy with a good kick and the olive oil floating on top actually worked. Anyway, it didn’t last long. In that picture you can see the glossy grassy-green olive oil in the pot next to it. It was delicious and we were given crusty bread to dip in…and dip in we did.
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‘Tea’ or La Merienda was various sandwiches, with jamon and tomato, smoked salmon, tortilla and finally, my favourite, squid with aioli. I’ve afraid they were scoffed down at lightning speed, so no pics I’m afraid.

Then the highlight, a demo from José and the head chef Dan (I think – those martinis are strong!) about how to make a ‘proper’ tortilla – big tip, it shouldn’t go in the oven, flip it over on a plate and slide back into the pan…….

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 José being animated and charming (and a bit blurry)

Finally (after another martini – hic!), we had olive oil cake, topping with vanilla ice cream:

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On the Sunday, I decided to recreate my own version here:

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My quantities were not exact, but there is a proper recipe here from Felicity Cloake which includes refer to José’s and also José’s website here has lots of other amazing Spanish recipes if you’re feeling inspired.

But the nice thing was that José seemed to think it look alright, which was good enough for me!

 

 

Aside

With the proliferation of street markets/trucks springing up over London (well not really springing any more – they’re a fixture) it’s hard to know where to start, especially at weekends. Head to Waterloo for the Southbank or East to Broadway Market, South East to Brockley Market or South West to Brixton Village, and that’s just for starters. The list is endless.  However you a  place you can’t really go wrong is KERB. And, hurrah, they’re back!  Normally you’re only lucky enough to be able to experience KERB during the week, if you are near one of their markets at King’s Cross, The Gherkin or Canary Wharf (but this is growing, so hold on – see below).

Until October KERB are also doing Saturday at Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Kerb 2014 106 I decided to pop down (or should that be up?) to the first one…They will be on the third Saturday of each month (next one is 21st June, this coming weekend) , as usual the traders will swap each week and you can check out who is going to be there each week by checking ahead on their website, here. Donostia Social Club, Rola Wala, Miss P’s BBQ, The Grilling Greek. What The Dickens, Kimchinary, Capish, Motoyogo, Batch Bakery, Bell & Brisket, Bleecker Street Burger, Bean and Gone. If I have forgotten anyone my apologies.

I’d raced up to see if I could get a scallop and bacon roll from What the Dickens? before they ran out, as they kept posting tantalising pictures up on Twitter,  but it turns out they’d already started serving (a still very tasty looking) lunch of kedgeree. I was too late. Next time my pretties.

I need not have worried about shortage of food.  As you can see below, the choice was amazing, it was making the decision of what to eat which was the hardest thing.Kerb 2014 111I could happily have eaten all of this…

I decided to go with Crabbieshack’s Soft Shell Crab burger, with samphire and tartare sauce. Samphire always reminds me of when I was in Falmouth, we used to buy huge bunches from the fishmonger on Fridays and gorge ourselves. Ha! How bloody pretentious does that sound, students stuffing their faces on samphire?! Anyway it was divine, crunchy and crabbie, here a little pic.
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Mine, all mine….

We washed it down with a tasty ale which, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of. I’m not a beer drinker, but if you were so inclined there was a potent brew which was about 6%.  Couple of those and you’d be flying – or on the floor.

I decided that I still needed more. But what? I could happily eaten anything from any of the stalls.  Having read about Ice Kitchen and their gourmet ice lollies, I thought this was the way forward, grapefruit and campari, was a lovely grown-up version. A sophisticated little number I think you’ll agree. How refreshing does that look?!
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Having spent a lovely afternoon, sitting in the sunshine and watching the children playing in the fountains (which incidentally were going in time to the music – sweet)Kerb 2014 127
sipping wine and people watching,
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watching barges negotiate their way round the Regent’s Canal
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We decided that we need just one more thing. Cinnamon-dusted donuts, covered with pecans and salted caramels sauce from You Doughnut from the delightful Betsy and Jo. What’s not to love?Kerb 2014 131
And love we did. The fact that they are bitesize makes them easier to eat too.  I would also call them a ‘guilty pleasure’, except for the fact that I didn’t feel guilty about eating them, I NEVER feel guilty about eating anything. No-one should! All in all a splendid day and one which I shall be repeating a lot. Isn’t is pretty….Kerb 2014 108

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KERB is at Granary Square, the third Saturday of every month until October, next one this Saturday, June 21st. For other dates see below:
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Kitchen Memories, or an homage to my Kenwood Chef

So on Friday I had to  make cakes for the office, more specifically I had to make cakes that I would be judged on (not officially, but you know, it’s competitive). Decision, decisions. What to choose? Where to start? Now I think I’m not too bad in the kitchen, I can whip up fresh pesto (kale, natch) and make some decent scoff when required. I have my trusty gadgets (pestle and mortar, Magimix, etc), but when it comes down to baking out comes the stalwart of my kitchen, the Kenwood Chef. I *think* am the third generation of my family to use it. It was certainly my mother’s and possibly her’s too, at least that’s what I have been led to believe. Sadly my mum is no longer around for me to corroborate this information, and much as I love my dad, I’d get a more reliable reply from the neighbour’s cat (sorry dad).

The lady herself

The lady herself

The Kitchen Aid (seen on TV shows, various) at first seems the much more aesthetically-pleasing model, with its clean, retro design. The more modern Kenwood models certainly look great and I’m sure their performance is outstanding. But for genuine vintage you can’t beat the workhorse that is my Kenwood Chef, not least that it certainly looks vintage. Never mind that it sounds akin to a Boeing 747 approaching take off (I fully expect to turn around in my kitchen and see a man with ear muffs, doing semaphore). I’m also a little afraid that the dial might come off in my hand, that the machine will continue to gain speed and momentum and eventually career off the work surface and plunge to the floor. The dial does, sometimes, come off, but pops right back on – albeit with the numbers slightly out. She is like an old, eccentric relative, you never know quite what to expect, but I’m inordinately fond of her; most of the time she behaves impeccably, and afterwards I wonder what I the fuss was about.

 

The dodgy dial

The dodgy dial

 

I suppose it is almost an extension of family given that more than anything it reminds me of how I ‘learned’ to cook, by baking cakes with my mum, bending over the mixer, trying to breaking eggs into bowl whilst the beater was still going and usually leaving a certain amount of eggshell and a scene of utter devastation in my wake. The Vikings had nothing on me. Most of us have memories of our first forays into the culinary world: Me, covered in flour and wrapped in an apron folded so often that I could have passed for a Geisha. This is the reason I chose the lemon drizzle cake – from Nigella Lawson’s How To be A Domestic Goddess, it’s a particular favourite chez Wurzel.

Nigella Lawson, How To Be A Domestic Goddess Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake

125 g unsalted butter
175 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175 g self raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons milk
23x13x7cm loaf tin buttered and lined

For the syrup
juice of 1 ½ lemons
100 g icing sugar

For the glaze
juice of ½ a lemon
150 g icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 180 C/ gas mark 4. Butter and line your loaf tin well. Cream together butter and sugar and add eggs and lemon zest, beating them in well. Gently fold in the flour and the salt, mixing thoroughly and then add the milk. Spoon the batter into your prepared tin and bake for 45 mins or until cake tester comes out clean. For the syrup: Put the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. As soon as cake is out of oven, puncture all over with skewer and pour over the syrup. Leave cake to cool completely before removing from the tin.

For the glaze: Combine lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth and white, add a little more icing sugar if needed. Make sure your cake is completely cool before drizzling with the glaze.

Neither the tangy, citrus hit, complete with zesty peel, nor the intense sweetness is too overpowering , and let’s not forget,  it tastes divine. And as it contains lemons clearly it’s full of Vitamin C, ergo healthy. (see that was easy wasn’t it!).  Whenever I taste it I’m transported back into that kitchen, elbow-deep in stickiness.  Food and their associations are very powerful triggers, how many of us are transported back to the school dinner hall when we smell cabbage? Or similarly would turn down a three course Michelin-starred meal which contained rice/custard/mushrooms* simply because of a past traumatic encounter? (*delete as appropriate)

Thankfully the associations (at least for me) with cake, and most people’s I’d wager, are all good. Comfort, home and most of all, my mum and, by association, the Kenwood Chef is included in that (I have also inherited her Le Creuset casserole dishes, but that’s another whole story!). I am sure that many other keen cooks will understand the attachment to equipment handed down from family members. I know that when my Kenwood Chef, Grande Dame (for she is a lady to me) of the kitchen finally goes to the great cupboard in the sky, there will not just be a need for new mixer, but it will also be the end of an era. Thankfully I will still have those memories.

The not quite finished article

The not quite finished article

Burgers……Honest, Dirty, you name it we’ve got ’em.

Well it seems it’s all about burgers, well in London at least. Cornwall – pasties. London – burgers. Shake Shack and Five Guys have opened in Covent Garden and the queues are snaking round the block. Honest Burgers has opened in Camden. And, fanfare please, Dirty Burger is opening in little old Tooting. Nick Jones, the man who bought us Soho House and swimming pools on roofs and has made ‘Tooting is the new Shoreditch’. Well actually, no it’s not. Tooting’s just fine as it is thanks, but I’m more than happy about anything good for Tooting. However, I think we’ve got a bit of a wait yet.*

However to get in training I decided to try Honest Burgers, which recently opened their third branch in Camden Lock, (a fourth has now opened in Portobello and as I update post, another has just open in Market Place), a mere stone’s throw from where I work, so it would have been rude not to sample their wares. Right?

I decided to trot down at lunchtime (for I am a piggy. Geddit?), dodging tourists as I went – I was starving. It was rammed, but they also offer a takeaway service and there is the option of phoning your order in ahead (note to self for next time).

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The interior

I went for the cheeseburger, with mature cheddar, normally I’m a plastic cheese kinda girl, but this was lovely and not too strong. There is also the Honest Burger with bacon, or a special involving chorizo, manchego and chimichurri. The specials change regularly. All burgers come with chips (more of these later) and are in encased in a glossy, brioche-style toasted bun, with a generous helping of onion relish.

The menu

The menu

I was close to gnawing my own arm off, so the 15 minute wait seemed like an eternity (it wasn’t). The service was charming and as I was packed off with added tomato ketchup and mayo, the waiter made sure that one flap of my box was open ‘otherwise it gets soggy’. Although I was just in a hurry to clamp my jaws around the bun, it was this attention to detail that made all the difference.

In all its glory…

Setting off at a brisk pace, and god help anyone in my way (I have been known to inhale a burger in under 5 mins**.) Back at the ranch, to my delight it was still juicy and plenty warm enough – and with no soggy chips.  Oh GOD, I haven’t mentioned the CHIPS.  Whatever is sprinkled on these  fragrant, rosemary-salted babies, is the culinary equivalent of crack so addictive are they. They are both crunchy and fluffy at the same time (I’m drooling here).  The burger was cooked nicely pink in the middle (and, thankfully, no Westminster food cops here).

If you’ve got room for pudding (unlikely, but hey, go anyway!), a few doors down from Honest Burgers are the marvellously inventive Chin Chin Labs, who make your ice cream to order in front of your eyes. Quite literally. All very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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And here is my apricot and jasmine concoction.  It was heavenly.  They have ever changing special flavours.  It’s fab.

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*(Macdonald’s Cheeseburger, St John’s Road bus stop Clapham Junction c.2010, don’t judge me)

**As this goes to press I have heard on Twitter that we are not getting Dirty Burger, but Chicken Shop instead – still from the Nick Jones stable….and still tasty! UPDATE. Latest news is that Tooting IS getting either Honest Burgers OR Dirty Burger.  Rumours flying around on Twitter.  Can anyone confirm?

Honest Burgers, Unit 34a, 54-56 Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AF

Chin Chin Labs, 49-50 Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AF

Marrakech – or is it Marrakesh – who cares? It’s warmer than here and it’s great!

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This weather is glorious, but just a few short weeks ago, when it was snowing/raining/hailing/sleeting  I was sitting in the warmth of the sun on a rooftop in Marrakech.  It was lovely….

Our riad was called Riad Jonan – which I took as a good sign – it’s my childhood nickname and it was off the Rue de Kasbah, so I suppose I can legitimately say we were rocking the Kasbah.  I like this.

We had decided to pay extra to have dinner at the Riad on the first night and they certainly didn’t let us starve….a tagine if my memory serves me correctly, with lamb .

Come Dine with Me would never be the same again.

Come Dine with Me would never be the same again.

The next morning, after the most divine breakfast, think homemade yogurt, stewed fruit, fresh pastries (the French influence is evident here – YUM), Moroccan pancakes (I’m still trying to find a recipe for these they were SO good).   We haven’t finished yet: the omelette or scrambled eggs.  All included in the room.

The next day we decided to walk to the New Town before we hit the madness of the Souk.  The difference is palpable, it’s very colonial/modern – La Grande Cafe de La Poste where we stopped is a good example – as you can probably tell from the name it’s the old Post Office, converted to a restaurant/cafe.  I kept forgetting that it’s a ‘dry’ country as they are Muslim – no alcohol is served outside Westernised or tourist places – if we were sitting inside it would have been acceptable to have wine, not outside, but to be honest it wasn’t really an issue.  Yes, really.   It was stranger seeing people smoking – INSIDE, even though I no longer smoke, I was almost tempted. Almost.

Next stop, feet rested, – we walked all the way – was the Majorelle Gardens, which were bought and restored by Yves Saint Laurent.  Unfortunately they were renovating parts of it, so we didn’t get to see it in its full glory, but nothing could detract from the AMAZING colours. As you can see here.

Blue

Pots

I don’t know if they would like quite so stunning in a grey and rainy Tooting flat (I had all sorts of grand plans!), but here they were stunning!

We caved and a taxi back to the Riad and decided that before we finally ventured to the Souk we should go to go the Government Emporium , where prices are fixed so we could get an idea of what we should be paying in the Souks – and how much we could expect to barter.  You could buy absolutely anything, and I mean anything – from model aircraft and tanks fashioned from bullets (good luck getting those through customs) to Virginity soap, formulated to help you keep it – yes really (*raises eyebrows*).

Got hopelessly lost in the souk.  (A word of warning:  If anyone says they are doing anything for free and they don’t want any money – THEY probably DO – which is fine if you’re happy to part with your money by the way – lots of people do.)  We eventually found a bar/restaurant, Le Terrasse des Epices, it was very quiet, in fact we were the only people there – it had taken us so long to get there, we had omitted to remember that at night anywhere in the middle of the Souk is going to be both.  We decided revisit it in daylight which was much more worthwhile!  Straws hats supplied against the strong sun.

We tramped, exhausted back to Jemaa el-Fnaa, which EVERYONE calls The Big Square (there are enormous signs with arrows to ‘The Big Square’, specifically for numpties like us) for food.  Sadly Hassan’s was a bit packed and this seemed like the place to be.

Kebab and chips twice please, but hold the sheep's head

Kebab and chips twice please, but hold the sheep’s head

On our final day we found the ‘real’ souks, the workshops and the skins’ auctions.  This is what we’d come to see, although we hadn’t realised it until now.  The Souk des Teinturiers (Dyers’ Souk):

A Knitters' paradise

A Knitters’ paradise

and the Souk Hadaddine (Metalwork Souk):

 
What do you mean you've seen them in Hombase?

What do you mean you can buy them in Homebase?

We finally found something that wasn’t available in Camden market, and bought a lovely hand-stitched Moroccan pouffe from Jamal (see below – stuffed, you buy them empty) – bartered down to half. Result.  The bartering process is great fun – Jamal certainly seemed to be enjoying it, including my pitiful initial attempts (which he wasn’t shy in pointing out) and it’s the practically the law –  but be warned it is a slow process, it took us the best part of two hours before we left with our purchases.  ‘Souked out’ we decided to head back.

A pouffe in Majorelle blue.  A little bit of Morocco in Tooting!

My pouffe in Majorelle blue. A little bit of Morocco in Tooting!

The best thing we ate all trip were the meat skewers cooked on a charcoal grill in the street.  What the locals ate, no lamb, just beef or heart/offal (ewww), we unsurprisingly opted for beef in our best French. Served in large bap, (for want of a better word).  Served with red onion and coriander and sprinkled with zaa’tar (we think). To die for.

On our last night we went for a  meal at ‘smart’ restaurant, Le Marrakchi – all black and burgundy (I think) it was quite dark and seemed to be lit solely with enormous candelabra – which nearly set some pensioners alight several times, all it would have taken was a waft of Elnett and ‘woof!’.  The views over the square were amazing but if you want a window seat, made sure you book.  It doesn’t matter if there is no one else sitting there.  You want window, you book.

Stuffed with lamb and fig tagine and with a very passable bottle of red, we rolled back to the Riad to sit on the room terrace and reflect on our days that had just flown by.

There is still so much to see and do: The Atlas Mountains,  the Saadian Tombs, the windy coast of Essaouira, have a Hammam and of course – more shopping…..There’s always next time.

The one where I go to yoga. By mistake.

Yesterday I went to yoga, by accident.  Until yesterday yoga was a cartoon bear who lived in Yellowstone Park (I think that’s YogI, but you get my drift?) I actually meant to go to Pilates, but there was a cock-up with the timetable and so having bothered to change into a gym kit and walk 15mins (this is a BIG DEAL alright?) there I thought I might as well ….Many moons ago I tried yoga – just the once and that was enough. The ‘experts’ made sure they were in the front row and seemed to be having a competition to see who could hold their poses for longest, or look most serene. Talk about showing off in front of teacher.  These people were in their fifties ffs.  I didn’t last long  before wanting to poke their eyes out.

Now, I thought it was time to give it another try seeing as I was here anyway.  These people looked normal, no dreadlocks and wearing no hemp clothing that I could discern……My first thought on walking in was ‘oh good – they’re lying down’, but this was different, oh so very different than the minimally tiring class I had envisaged, nay been hoping for.   For starters, I never knew you could get so hot by doing so little and, for the record, I’m ignoring those silly classes where they just seem to sit in an overheated room and sweat.  I mean how unhygiene is that – you wouldn’t take a shower or bathe with these people.  Who knows what’s coming out of those pores?!  Have you been on the London Underground.  Ew.  No thank you.  But I digress.

God was it hard work – and I whilst I didn’t embrace as enthusiastically as say, Gwyneth Paltrow –  or even the Dalai Lama –  might have done, I wasn’t *not* enjoying it.   I think that is what is called an unexpected result.

I slightly lost it at the end, just a bit, instead of listening to the outside noises, I was deciding whether a glass of wine when I got home would negate all that I had done in the past  hour (the answer to me, predictably – no).

Even better, as I stepped out of the building, a bus pulled up – the one that drops me at the end of my road.  I took that as a sign.   Thanks Gwynnie.  I may be back.