Friday, 30 January 2009

Hello, first time lovers! Well, the astute amongst you will have noted that DH, tiny George and I moved last weekend, so there have been lots of new-house-related first times in the last week. But best of all, the beauty of (a) London and (b) a new house is the great opportunity to discover new shops. Now, I know what you're thinking - there's a recession on, love. Haven't your heard that the UK is going to be the worst affected place in the world? But hell, yes, I have. And little local shops are probably scared stupid by the idea of not having any customers. So it is my duty to keep shopping while I can. So anyway. Our house is near Amwell Street which (in shop terms) is like stepping back in time. It has a sweet deli, florist, chemist, grocer's, shoe shop (Emma Hope for you fashionistas but frankly they're a bit granny-does-hip for me) and best of all, on another road, my new fabulous discovery - a shop called Covet. When I first saw it, I thought 'Hey, right people - you are so trying too hard with that name' but then I parked outside the window (not literally you understand, I'm in the congestion charge zone and anyone who drives here is insane) and saw the most amazing 'alphabet bags' - hand made bags with letters of the alphabet printed on - and I knew I had found my home. I'm going to covet away, knowing that Valentine's Day is just around the corner...

Covet, 21 Arlington Street, London EC1.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Well, I've done something for the first time every day this week, but frankly they all pale into insignificance when compared to last night's first time, so I'll spare you the details. Last night definitely goes to the top of my first time experiences since I started writing this blog. So, last night, for the first time, I saw Grace Jones in concert. DH and I chose Grace's cover of 'La Vie en Rose' as our first dance at our wedding, so we were in a state of some excitement as we headed off to the venue.

I was speechless as I left. It is hard to describe in words just how phenomenal this woman is. She is 60 years old. And yet - she comes onto stage, wearing practically nothing save a hat (which changes for every song), looking like she could snap you in two, no problem. Her legs are the longest legs I have ever seen - if she were a machine, she'd be described as a feat of modern engineering. To my surprise, she can also sing. I stared open-mouthed throughout the show. For her final song, she chose 'Slave to the Rythmn' (of course) and stood, wearing basically a corset and a red net hat with horns, and 8 inch heels, hoola-hooping as she sang. Yes, hoola-hooping. And not in a child-like way, but in a tall, step-over-your-dead-body-in-heels, man-eating machine, sexy and undulating sort of way. Definitely the first time I've seen that ... and I'm ordering my hoola hoop on ebay right now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I know it's been ages since I last posted, but sometimes living life just gets in the way... but I have not cheated. I have done something for the first time every single day. Some highlights from the past week:

  • I went to Clissold Park (and associated cafĂ©, pirates castle and so on) for the first time, with George. George loved it all. Continuing on my theme of 'I hate everywhere in London except my own area' (I call it reverse NIMBYism, or OIMBYism - Only in my back yard) I decided that Stoke Newington is far too nappy valley for me. Having said that, Clissold Park is lovely and there are even deer.

  • I went on a secret mission to a Japanese restaurant. Details too top secret to disclose but it was seriously spy mission extraordinaire.

  • I got assaulted by a crazy lady at the council offices who thought I worked for the council. She hit me over the head with her umbrella (first time this has ever happened, I have to say) but when she realised that I did not in fact work for the Council, she told me that I would be rewarded in heaven. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

  • I read a Henning Mankell book for the first time. Thanks to my friends Alex and Sarah. I love Wallander and yes I am aware that reading crime novels is desperately sad, and that by reading books which are (a) European (Swedish) and (b) modern-day, I have wholly failed to expand my literary horizons. But I don't care. Last night I stayed up until 2.30am reading the end of The White Lioness because frankly I wouldn't have been able to sleep without knowing what happened.

  • I heard the new Franz Ferdinand single and so far am distinctly underwhelmed.

  • I went to see Slumdog Millionaire and was distinctly overwhelmed. [What? This isn't a movie and music review blog, you know].

But I've got to tell you about my best first time this week. Those of you who read this blog avidly (probably only my Mum) will remember that when I went to see Glasvegas a few months ago, I also saw a band called White Lies. They played a fabulous acoustic set and I thought they were brilliant. Anyway. They have just released their new album this week and already the hype is horrific and already part of my love for them has died on that basis alone. But for the first time since I was a teenager (and as this is my blog, this so counts) I have been desperately impressed by a set of lyrics. Remember those days when you used to copy lyrics off the back of Smash Hits magazine and wish you could have written them? Nope - only me then. Well, White Lies are obsessed with death. Properly obsessed. Their first EP was called Death and their first single is called To Lose My Life. Anyway, one of their songs on the Death EP is about fear of flying - a theme dear to my heart. Every time I get on a flight, not only am I terrified but the fear is also made worse by the fact that my lovely DH hates that I hate flying and gets terribly tense too. So the lyric:

"I'm frightened of dying; relax? yes I'm trying". A work of genius.

Monday, 12 January 2009

A very lovely and special first time today. For the first time ever, I attended a judge's 'swearing in' ceremony. This is the occasion on which a judge is formally sworn in, and swears allegiance to the Queen and officially takes up their position.
The judge in question was my favourite judge in the world, Jeremy Sullivan. Mr. Justice Sullivan has been a judge of the High Court for eleven years and was today being elevated to the Court of Appeal, so as of today he is Lord Justice Sullivan. It's hard to describe this man. If I had heroes, he would undoubtedly be my judge hero. Jarvis would be my music hero and Sullivan is my law hero. I must explain that this is not (unlike the case of Jarvis) because I have any kind of a crush on him. It's because he manages to be a rare combination of things: very clever (obviously goes without saying), courteous to all advocates who appear in front of him (some judges could really learn from him, I have to say, you know who you are) and brilliant at spotting the heart of the issue. Everyone agrees that you could tell within the first five minutes whether you had won with him.
Anyway, so the ceremony was brilliant. It was in court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice, one of the biggest courts, so that it could fit all the judges and barristers who wanted to wish him well. He came in dressed in the world's fanciest outfit: all wig and gold embroidery and silk and you really had to be there to believe it. He swore allegiance to the Queen, and, rather touchingly, to 'do good for all manner of people'. Congrats, Lord Justice Sullivan. And every best wish for the future.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Well, lots of first times to catch up on. This weekend, I was in Edinburgh (actually, that's a bit of a misnomer as I actually spent more time on the train than in Edinburgh) for my supremely wonderful friend Elpseth's 30th birthday dinner. For the first time, I went to Bruntsfield (never did see it other than in the dark though), had dinner at The Olive Branch and drank peaty Bunnahabhain whisky - yum. Elspeth looked gorgeous and I realised how much I miss her!

On Friday night for the first time I went to a party in the Bear Garden, which is part of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Rumours that it was named after the experience of appearing before judges there are, I am sure, unfounded. It was a colleague's 40th birthday, and his wife gave a really moving speech about him. I really hope that I inspire that much love and confidence in the ones I love.

On the train on the way home from Edinburgh, on a Sunday morning, I realised for the first time that the country is absolutely full of Sunday football teams. Complete with cheering parents on the sidelines, in most cases. It was beautiful. Just south of Berwick, I saw (somewhat improbably) one team playing on a narrow strip of land between the railway line and the sea. One bad kick either way and the ball is lost surely... Just outside Newcastle I saw a team of really quite tiny boys playing in hats and scarves and woollies. As the train passed, the ones on the subs bench stood up and waved at the train! Lovely. I waved back. I think I saw at least 15 teams in all. Please God let George want to play football one day.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Well today for the first time, I sat on a board which decided the fate of lots of junior barristers. But it's all a bit dull (and probably horribly confidential) so instead, I'll tell you about falling in love with a TV advert for the first time. Remember when you were a teenager and you saw a music video of your favourite band for the first time, you saw that lead singer you had a crush on in the tightest trousers imaginable and you were glued to the screen in wondrous delight? Well, exactly the same happened to me today in respect of a TV ad. Now I know it sounds unlikely. Intelligent, professional woman, brought up in a rather left-wing household - and therefore brought up to eschew the value of captalism - seduced by a TV ad? But oh yes. Tonight, the new Virgin Atlantic: 25 years ad came on and I sat transfixed by it. It's wondrous. It made me want to be an air stewardess (and those who love me best know that I'd rather eat my right arm than fly on a daily basis). The glamour! The 80s icons! Do they do a DVD of it? I think I'm going to set my V+ box right now to tape through the night and hopefully I can see it once more...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Over the last couple of days, my first times have been entirely house related. First, we went to see for the first time the palace we are renting for the duration until our house works start. Enough room to swing several small tigers, I can assure you. Five floors! I tell you, I won't want to leave and will have to be dragged out.

Today for the first time I met the builder who is going to carry out the gutting out and general magical transformation of our home. Classic male/female questions for the builder at our meeting. DH: "So, are we configuring the Cat 6 wiring in a star formation?" (yes, exactly, what?). Me: "No, we can't have the speakers there, it will clash with the colour of the wallpaper!" DH: "Does the repeat router need to be in the open or will the connectivity be affected if it's located in a cupboard?". Me: "Hey, can we paint the dressing room wall pink?". I think my questions were best really. TWO weeks and we are finally free of the Mexican green kitchen, and that kiln. Freedom!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Today for the first time, I went to the Natural History Museum in South Ken. Now I know -what? I've lived in London for over ten years and I've never set foot there? My excuses are that (a) I didn't grow up in London, childhood being prime visiting time for such places - and instead I was a regular visitor to the dinosaur exhibitions at Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow; and (b) I can't really understand west London, let alone that part of it. By saying 'not understanding' that is of course code for I can't understand what would make someone want to live there (ooh, controversial, I know). But undoubtedly the museums are great, so we headed off. And now I'm , thinking - why didn't I go before? The dinosaurs (and the especially, the living, breathing, T-rex) are just brilliant. George beamed and did his Nelly the Elephant dance when he saw the stuffed elephants, which made DH and I giggle and all was well with the world. George fell asleep in the car on the way home, wearing his bobble hat and clutching his new plastic diplodocus. I looked at him for a long time and realised that in such moments, I really am living the dream.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

OK, so I know that I've been totally rubbish at blogging over the last few weeks but this is for three very good reasons. First, it was the festive season, and no matter how cool your blog is (and I don't for a moment profess to be in that category) you can't really excuse yourself in the middle of Christmas dinner with a view to spending an hour glued to a screen. Secondly, I have spent much of this time on a romantic mini break with my DH. If you thought excusing yourself in the middle of Christmas dinner was bad, then try excusing yourself whilst on your first proper holiday sans child. Divorce territory. And finally, I've just not been that near a computer screen much. But worry not, I have been completing first times every day (sometimes more than one) and I plan to write almost every day from now on.

I can't possibly tell you everything about my magnificent romantic holiday with DH, for puratanical reasons as well as practical. Most notable of all was of course staying for the first time at the fabulous Marques de Riscal hotel (can't resist another photo here). I was blown away by the Guggenheim in Bilbao and equally blown away by this hotel. We had a room right in the body of the hotel (most rooms are actually in an annexe) and words cannot describe how cool it was. Just a few first time highlights from the hotel itself:

  • The hotel was commissioned by the Marques de Riscal winery, the oldest winery in the Rioja region of Spain. We went on a wine tour of the winery and discovered that it has a private collection of every vintage since 1860;

  • For the first time ever I have been more impressed by the architecture of a hotel rather than anything else. It is amazing. Just being in the rooms (twisting and turning to fit in with the architecture rather than being rooms designed for the user in mind).

  • The restaurant makes you want to live in the hotel forever. Any hotel restaurant which does a 'stew of the day' (which makes you want to cry, it's so good) each day clearly caters to the Scot in me.

Other first times from the holiday:

  • I discovered that there is a Spanish city called Logrono (and visited it). It apparently has 150,000 inhabitants. Now, I absolutely defy you to have heard of it. Unless you're Spanish or have extensively toured there. Now, I expect most people have heard of most large Spanish cities. But Logrono? I had never heard of it and it has no tourists and as a result is amazing. We had a great tapas bar hopping experience there.

  • I went to Pamplona for the first time. Yes, that bull running place. Lovely place - was most impressed by the tiled bathrooms in the cathedral (yes, I'm that sad. I only took about six photos all holiday and that was one of them).

  • I went to a medieval village called Laguardia. Previously, this had only been known to me as NY's second airport, which just goes to show what I know. It was bitterly cold. I actually cried with cold (but had an excuse to wear all my new scarves at once - see previous posts). It's lovely - no need to make a special trip there, in my HO.

  • I had lunch in Biarritz on the way back. Get this - it was the 30th December and I sat outside to have lunch, it was so warm. I had never been to Biarritz (south of France, but Atlantic side, not the Med) and now I am in love with it. Beach and a Galeries Lafayette. When can we move there?

  • Went to San Sebastian. I can't claim this as a first time, but I can say that I ran along La Concha beach for the first time. Felt a bit sad as that was the first day without George.

So that's a potted summary of my last few first times. Which takes me to today. Went to see Arsenal play Plymouth in the Cup (we won 3-1 for those of you who have not fallen asleep at the mention of football). I decided that as it is new year, I'd say happy new year to the man next to me, and ask his name. Now I know. This doesn't sound like a big deal? It is. Men go years and years and years sitting next to another season ticket holder year after year without asking their name. It's how it works. It is not manly to seem too friendly. But I'm not a man, and I have a blog to write, so I did it. Now the man I usually call the "Behave, you f***ing muppet!" man (as that's all he ever says during a game - to the players, not me) has a name. He's called Derek. And he even smiled.