Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Up, Down, Turn Around, Please Don’t Let Me Hit The Ground

Sunday, dawn, and I awake, sweaty and shaky. The vivid imagery of my legs concertina-ing, fragments of shattered bone exploding outwards as my feet make contact with my buttocks remains embedded in my mind.

Today is the day. I’m joining two of my club mates and around 20 parents from my kids’ school in dangling 100ft above the floor of the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre. It’s Aerial Assault day.

After watching from air-conditioned comfort as the first batch of parents, and a sprinkling of 12-year-old kids, successfully complete the course, it’s our turn. Up the spiral staircase to the launch platform, the ‘banter’ becoming ever more strained as we attempt to divert our minds from the task at hand. It’s difficult to envision just how high 100ft is, when you are looking down. Suffice to say, it’s far enough.

On with the harness, then the helmet and get that attached to the harness. All watches removed and shoes tightened. The consequences of an item falling from that height onto a head below wouldn’t be pleasant. And it’s time to hook up, much like a stick of paratroopers on a DC-10 we stand in line awaiting the green light. Well, except for me. There are 11 in our group and only harnesses. I have to wait until the leadoff dangler has returned to the eyrie.

Soon, people are off and it’s the cricketers’ turn. Tricky is up first. He’s chosen now to reveal he has a real issue with heights, and for a while it looks like he may not make it. We stand, waiting mostly in silence, offering the odd word of encouragement and watching the back of his neck get redder as he battles with his inner demons. Suddenly, with a deep breath he’s gone. Lamby waits until he reaches the first platform before he is released, and it’s my turn. The nice young lady at the turnstile gives my nuts a last check (not difficult, given how snug these harnesses are), adjusts the ropes and with a last little nudge, sends me on my way.

Out over the arena, on a leisurely slide across to the first platform, nothing to do but sneak a quick peak at the ground. Nothing but thin air between me and a couple of large scrambling boulders. Very thin air! Victoria Beckham thin air. The kind of thin air that makes it very clear it won’t be doing anything to counteract gravity.

Soon the landing platform is in reach and after a short scramble up, it’s out onto the obstacles. Log bridges, rope ladders, scramble nets and various other things to go over or round, swing from the roof. The disconnect between the knowledge that the harness and pulley system is safe for 3 to 4 times my bodyweight and the fact that everything is wobbling and unsteady is on occasion a tough thing to bridge. It proves so for Tricky up ahead as the three of us are now bunched up in the middle. Lamby and I hold back giving him the room to sort himself out and he’s off again.

The toughest section of the course involves traversing the climbing wall at one side and involves a four-foot leap over nothing. Again, psychology comes into play, getting your brain to trust in what it can’t see!

The last leg is fairly straight forward and the course ends with a speedier zip slide style run back to the starting point, the signal for much relief, large smiles and handshakes. Adrenaline still coursing through the veins gives everyone a case of the shakes, the last word belonging to Lamby. “I’d do it again, but I don’t know if I’d do it without a harness!”

I’d like to thank Tricky and Lamby for turning up and doing this, and on behalf of each of them thanks to everyone who sponsored us and helped raise a few more pounds for our coaching funds.

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It seems to be a week for manufactured controversy, and it’s only bloody Tuesday! We’ve had various talking heads on TV and radio this morning queuing up to condemn ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ as sick, depraved and a grave threat to our very well-being. None of these people it should be added have actually seen the game. I haven’t either I hasten to add, hence the reason I won’t comment on the game itself.

The thrust of the argument revolves around a section of the game that involves the player taking on the role of a terrorist in an airport, dispatching civilians. Yes, I can see how that may be disquieting to some. However, given the average of gamers is 33, given that it has an 18 certificate (plus an extra warning about this section, with an option to skip it) it would seem that the makers have done everything they can to make it clear to people what the content is like.

“Oh, but we all know kids will get their hands on it” – yes, yes they will, just like they’ll get their hands on 18 certificate movies, and drama’s like 24. Did you see the last series of 24? It contained a scene with terrorists running around gunning people down in an airport, amongst other gory scenes including ‘our hero’ torturing people. My point? Sounds like this game is no worse than any other media available to us today. Jumping on the bandwagon and whipping up a frenzy of condemnation serves no purpose other than to create publicity and demand for the very thing they have an issue with. Grand Theft Auto is the most infamous example of this. The cycle of publicity gained thanks to “outraged of Tunbridge Wells” led to these games selling far more copies than the actual quality of the game deserved.

It’s a similar tale for Grodon Brown (did you see what I did there?). The Sun have taken it upon themselves to act for the entire British electorate and hound the man from office. His latest faux pas is to be a poor writer. Christ, thank fuck it’s not me then, I’ve got two good (well half decent) eyes and still can’t get much more than a spidery scrawl. OK, the lady in question is upset. Which parent wouldn’t be? Which parent wouldn’t be looking to lash out and find someone or something to blame? OK, maybe he should have taken a bit more time to edit the thing to at least make it presentable, but to be frank, I’d be more angry to receive a pro-forma standard template letter from a computer printer.

And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall,
In the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.

The whole things smacks of finding a stick with which to beat a man who is already down. How convenient that they were able to get a recording of a surprise phone conversation. Speaking only for myself, but I admit, I always have the recording device ready lest a random world leader phone me up of an evening.

The guy can’t do anything right, or rather; The Sun will always find something to blow up into a ‘national disgrace’. I’m not particularly a Labour voter or a Gordon Brown fan but, I’m starting to have some sympathy for the guy. It would be mildly amusing for at least a couple of hours if, in their zeal to have another ‘It Was The Sun Wot Won It’ post election front page, Murdoch’s gutter journalists actually engendered enough sympathy for Brown to cling to power.

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And so to a meeting in Edinburgh tonight….it was short, and bitter…seems I now have a 1 in 7 chance of being redundant this time next week…..yay me!

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This Is What It Feels Like (When Gloves Dry)

Apologies, it’s not a good pun, it’s not even a bad pun.  It’s so far from being a bad pun, it’s not even a pun…. but well, it doesn’t matter.  Not to me anyway.

This must be what it feels like to lose a cup final, or maybe a play off final.  To be so close, and yet still so far away from the goal you set out to achieve.

We set out with high hopes for the final league game of the season.  A battle of second placed Edinburgh and third placed RHC in what was essentially a winner take all, play off to take second place, and with it, promotion to ESCA Division 6.  Coming into the game Edinburgh had lost only once in 13 matches.  Their points tally having been affected by a couple of deductions for late match returns and ineligible players.  We had three defeats in 13.  Two when we’d been short of 2 or 3 bodies for games, and one when half our team had to go play for the 2s at an hours notice, forcing us to default to the bottom club (more on that little incident later).

In truth, we were rarely in the game, but it started reasonably well.  I was bowling a fairly tight line, as was Hoffy junior.  There was the odd monster slog for 6, but some good catching saw us holding them to 44 for 3 off the first 12.  The fourth wicket was to prove the key partnership.  I had my very own “and Smith must score” moment, and this was to prove crucial (at least to my mind).  Going for a pull shot the batsman got a top edge, sending the ball high, but straight to me in the mid wicket area.  I didn’t have to move much to be under it, the unfortunate thing being the sun.  It sounds like an excuse, and it’s not an excuse I’m making, but the guy couldn’t have bulls-eyed the sun any better if he’d tried to.  The ball reached its highest point bang in the middle of the sun; I may as well have had my eyes shut.  All I could do was get my hands up and hope the ball lodged, it hit the end of my fingers and dropped to the deck.  He went on to make 60, the partnership added 100 and despite Fraggle’s late flurry of wickets Edinburgh finished up all out for 195.  My return of 3 for 12 from 7.3 overs was pleasing.  My best spell of bowling since the opening game.

For us, the equation was simple.  196 runs required for promotion.  Just 4.36 runs per over, Skippy and Hoffy Senior at the crease and a good start required.  A good start is just what Edinburgh got as Hoffy Senior slapped a square cut, flat toward point, who took a blinding, one handed, full length diving catch.  Skippy and Frase battled to right the ship, but already the required rate was climbing.  Skippy was unlucky to be out as he blocked a ball only to see it spin back and just do enough to dislodge the ball, Frase went shortly after as the only shooter of the day went under his bat to bowl him.  When Hoffy Junior played all round a straight one (again!) the writing was on the wall.  JK and Jones did their best but the rate was creeping above 8 an over and they couldn’t find the boundaries.  In the end we crumbled to 126 all out as the tail tried in vain to go for the runs.  We probably could have batted our way to 150 for 7, but that would have done us no good, better to perish having a go.  Congrats to Edinburgh, who played well, paced their innings with the bat and bowled and fielded well enough to build early pressure.  Our top order failing to do anything helped them out, but maybe if that catch had been held, who knows.  So, it’s Division 7 again next season.  It holds no fears for us now; we can play with the best of them.  The only question is, will I be playing, or is this finally it?

Just to put an exclamation point on the day, the 1s managed to lose by an even bigger margin in their own 2nd vs. 3rd league match.  This meant they were leapfrogged by Dumfries and it is they who will contest the promotion play off for SNCL Division One/Two and not us.  There is at least the 20/20 finals day to look forward to.  For the rest of us, it’s winter nets in January.

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All of this returns me to the subject of the scratched game.  Mid season, things are going reasonably well at all levels of the club.  I’m just preparing to leave the house when the skipper phones up and announces a change of plan.  Seems the 2s skipper has thrown, not just his toys, but also his blanket and mattress from the pram.  There are now only 5 bodies available for the 2s team.  League rules state a minimum of 7 are required, and we can’t have the team scratch and still fulfill a lower team fixture.  So, half of the 3s team are moved up to the 2s and the 3s game is scratched.  This goes down as a loss on the 3s record, with no points given.  The saddest part of it is, the opposition for the 3s were the bottom club in the division, and an all but guaranteed win.  We’d played them when we had 8 players earlier in the season, winning by the thick end of 200 runs.

Fast forward to the end of the season.  We finish third, outside the promotion places.  Take that scratched game out of the record and we’d have missed promotion by a whisker.  Reverse the result, giving us the win we would have expected to take, and promotion was ours.  To add insult to injury, the offending 2s captain returned to play for the 3s.  Over the last few games of the season, he achieved the square of fuck all, failing to trouble the scorers in either of the last two games.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda… bloody sport!

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As I sit in this over heating office in the depths of Fife.  Not that Fife is in any way deep; the people of Fife are much like the townsfolk of Rock Ridge in ‘Blazing Saddles’.  They all share a surname, and they are “the common clay of old Scotland, you know.  Morons.”

So anyway, I sit, in an overheated, airless and stifling office, consoled by the fact that I can actually see out of windows on two sides of me.  Ten yards distant, but nevertheless, I have a lovely view of an empty office building on side and some windswept trees on the other.  Sadly in this time of waiting, the walking gunt sat nearest to the window on my right thinks I’m giving her the eye.  Either that or she’s hungry again.  If you want proof of the obesity epidemic just come visit DBS.

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For those needing further clarification on a “Smith must score moment”, fast forward to around he 6:30 mark.  Sadly it’s the voice of Motty.  I couldn’t find the immortal, though sadly dead, Brian Moore giving it the full”…and Smith must score…”

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Say hello, wave goodbye…

It’s squeaky bum time!  Saturday saw us go into action at Inverleith in a Royal High derby, 3rd XI style.  Penultimate game of the season, and perhaps we had our eyes on the game with Edinburgh next week, which will be a promotion decider, because it very nearly wasn’t.

The Smellies had augmented their side with a number of 2nd team regulars, as they are in the relegation zone, so that coupled with the artificial track made wicket shard to come by, only Gus getting any consistency and finishing up with 3fer.  A Mooro run out (Freddie Flintoff must have been watching) and a consolation wicket for Fraggle saw Stew Mel post 164 for 5 off their 45 overs.

We set off in pursuit of the target, confident, well fed and backed by a large contingent of 1st and 2nd team players whose games had both fallen victim to the wet weather.  Our confident mood didn’t last long.  Hoffy paddled the first ball of the innings to square leg for a diamond duck, Adam was intimidated by bounce, then cleaned up by a full one, and Gus played all around a straight one to leave us 15 for 3.  Skippy and JK righted the ship, taking us up to drinks with the score on 78.  96 wanted, 23 overs and 7 wickets in hand, a breeze.  That reckoned without JK slapping one to mid on, Will nicking to the keeper first up and then Fraggle doing something inexplicable leaving the innings in tatters at 86 for 6.  Mooro strode to the crease and proceeded to bat as only he can, or at least try to.  Nothing was coming from the middle of the bat and he led a charmed life before eventually holing out.  He and Skippy had moved the score to 136 for 7.  Still 29 wanted.  Disaster struck seven runs later when Skippy holed out.  Cue manic celebrations in the field.  These were cranked up a notch, as Tricky didn’t last long.  Enter Chappers, old man of the team, a genuine number 11 bat and a walking wicket in waiting.  15 runs wanted, last man at the crease 20 balls remaining.  He watched the last two balls of the over safely past off stick.  15 off 18.  Frase slapped a single off the first ball of the next over, a decision not roundly welcomed by the fans on the boundary.  14 off 17.  Became 14 off 16, then off 15 as Chappers declined to play at a couple off the sticks.  Groans from the keeper as a late block was played back to the bowler, and the over was seen off, with only a wide added to the score.  It was now 13 off 12 balls, but SM had a problem.  Their key bowlers were finished, who to bring on?  A fresh bowler was summoned, it appeared by default, as he happened to have the ball in his hand.  Frase on strike drove the first ball to mid on, four!  9 off 11.  Second ball, slapped back straighter than the first, four more.  The Corrie Massive on the sidelines going crazy, it’s now 5 off 10.  A dot, then a slap into the onside for two, made it 3 off 8.  Another dot and another shot for two, left Chappers on strike, scores tied.  First ball is middled, straight to mid on, no run.  Second ball was left outside the sticks.  Third ball, played to midwicket, Wait! Was the call, the ball eludes the fielder, Yes!  Run taken, game won, relief all round, despair for the Melville boys.  In almost identical fashion to the season opener, we’d battled to another win.  Now all we need is fair weather, a ground and a win over Edinburgh next week to go up.  Who needs The Ashes??

The first XI head to Dumfries next weekend, knowing a win will secure them a place in the promotion playoff.  Like the 3s game with Edinburgh, it’s essentially a cup final as a Dumfries win would see them leapfrog us into 2nd spot and the playoff.  It’s almost a mirror of last season when the 1s went to Dunfermline, only for the weather to intervene.  The sight of the away team working like Trojans to get the ground playable, whilst the home team relaxed in the knowledge that a cancellation kept them in a playoff spot was both surreal and frustrating.  It won’t be the away team doing the work this time if it’s needed.  A cancellation suits us!

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What a hornet’s nest that Kenny McCaskill kicked up last week.  Who’d have thought the release of the one man convicted of planting a bomb on a plane would be so controversial?

From a personal point of view, I grew up not too far from Lockerbie, have spent some time their in my youth and can remember vividly where I was and what I was doing the night the “Emmerdale” script writers got a “great” idea for a storyline.

The fact that he was the only person ever convicted was to me, “bit rum”.  The media and the movies etc would love to have us all believe the world is full of these loner rogue agents acting on their own, able to do all sorts of amazing, dastardly deeds.  The truth is a bit more prosaic.  He wasn’t on his own; he’ll have had help and assistance from somewhere, from someone.  Suppressed evidence, dodgy dossiers and testimony from shady individuals all combine to leave one with the feeling that this was a stitch up.  It’s not uncommon for individuals to profess their innocence in prison, but in this case, whilst I concede he may not have been completely innocent, I doubt he was the only guilty party.

The outrage from America, particularly from the politicians stems I feel in part, from the fact that they are implicit in covering up some of what went on in 1988 and subsequently.  America wanted “justice”; they wanted someone to pay the price, a sacrificial lamb.  They’ve since made sure that the ‘American People’ have been fed the lie often enough that they believe it.  America is the bully on the corner, extremely happy when he gets what he wants, but stand up to him and he’ll shout and yell and complain, deep down knowing you’re right.

The Libyan’s have scored.  They’ve been able to score points from everyone by playing this up for all it’s worth, the diplomatic equivalent of lighting the firework, the retiring to safety whilst the other two sides try to get away before it goes off.

Perhaps the most troubling, and yet least surprising aspect in all of this is the public display of ignorance from England as to just how different Scotland is to England.  For years it seems, most English people have seen Scotland as little more than an extension of their own country, governed from Westminster, served by the same media etc.  We’ve had a devolved government for 10 years now, which has been seen to give some definition as to the differences, but still there’s a sense that it’s just because we see ourselves as special, we somehow have ideas above our station that rankles within England.

Unlike Wales, Scotland did not give up its legal system when unified with England; Scotland has always had a different education system too.  We have much more rural space than is the case down south (with the exception of the Central Belt).  The feeling and atmosphere of small town and village England is much different to that of Scotland, perhaps because the majority of our industrial areas like ship building, even coal mining, were concentrated so close to our major cities, there’s much less of the ghost town pit village mentality you find in swathes of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

There are also differences in the way the outlook of the two countries is affected by religion, and maybe this is at the heart of the way this release decision is perceived.  Many commentators feel the furor over this may set back the SNP and it’s chase for Scottish independence.  I have no axe to grind there; if it comes it comes, if it doesn’t so be it.  I wonder how Scotland will fare, going it alone.  This incident may just help crystallise peoples thinking.  We’ve made a major world splash; we’ve shown ourselves to be a decent, ethical, up standing country.  One that wont wilt, even under the hard stare of US muscle flexing.  We’ve also underlined the differences between the English and the Scottish outlook.  No, this may actually be the watershed moment that serves to show Scots we can perhaps govern ourselves sensibly, and also one that shows those in England that Scotland is different to England in more ways than just a penchant for wearing ‘skirts’ and talking funny.

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New season, same old RHC

The 2009 league season started on Saturday, and all three of our sides were in action.  The 1’s got their SNCL2 campaign off to a perfect start, up to Freuchie in deepest, darkest Fife to take on one of the sides relegated last season.  The hosts batted first and were dismissed for a below par 166, new Overseas Amatuer Matt Holstein taking 4 wickets on debut.  Preston picked up from where he left off last year, by grabbing 3.  In reply we knocked off the runs for the loss of only two wickets, Kev McLaren and Craig Adams both passing 50, and earning the club a couple of cases of Magners into the bargain.

The 2’s started off at home, also against Freuchie’s 2nd eleven, and this was to be a successful first game back in ESCA 2.  Don’t have too many details at the moment, but stand in skip Gus Hoffman hit 80.

I played with the 3’s in my role of experienced old head/mentor!  We travelled across Edinburgh to meet Marchmont 2 at Cavalry Park.  Mooro put Plan A into actio by winning the toss and putting the opposition in.  Chappers and Kev opened the bowling and kept things tight as usual.  Chappers picking up a couple of early wickets, one thanks to a rank long hop the opposition skipper pulled into Will’s waiting hands.   Kev was unlucky to finish his spell wicketless.  TK Maxx and Fraggle took up the mantle and found themselves on the receiving end of some Nike cricket, as the Marchmont no. 5 gave everything the “swoosh”.

Time for the unplayable Ringles and Mooro to come in and slow things down.  Ringles picking up a couple of wickets, and Mooro finally getting the top scorer to mistime one, Pickles taking a blinder of a catch.

Chappers and Kev returned to finish of the innings, splitting thre wickets as Marchmont finished on 166 for 8 from their 45 overs.  Chappers taking four for 27.

The RHC reply got under way after tea, with some fine hitting from Will, Tricky on the other hand was plumber than a Pole in a van.  JK and Will moved the score to 45 before Will holed out.  Jonesy joined JK and advanced the score to 69 before a flurry of wickets looked to hand the game to Marchmont, Jonesy, JK (controversially triggered by Tricky), Pickles and TK Maxx all dismissed in quick succession, leaving the tattered innings flagging at 74 for six.  Time for the gun show.  Mooro played his normal restrained knock, flaying the ball to all parts.  Fraggle joined in hitting his first ever DLF maximum, and we’d crept to 117 before Mooro went for one too many and perished.  Kev joined Fraggle and the two youngsters continued to play calmy and with some authority, getting the score up to 140 before Fraggle holed out.  Ringles made his way in, and added a few, a quality pull shot not rewarded with the boundary it deserved.  The fat lady went from doing her scales, to being fully warmed up as Ringles departed.  Chappers heading in, and everyone feeling the game was up.  But steadfast batting, good running and a modicum of luck combined to see us over tyhe line in a fame we would normally have lost.  Next up, someone at our new home ground of Bangholm.

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One of the joys I had on getting home was having to sit through Britain’s Got Talent.  For some reason my daughter likes it.  Surely some of these people should be sectioned, not encouraged.  Those three old dears finger knitting, I mean what the fuck?!?!?  Some 15 year old, blowing his nose “musically”, and his mother was there, which implies, she’s either a weak, indulgent parent, spinelessly allowing her progeny to act on their every whim, or she actually encouraged the idiot to get up on stage in the first place.  Either one are grounds to have the child put in care……Britain, I despair sometimes, I really, really do…..

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Livin La Vida Smoke-a

I recently completed a four month stint working in London, and now the dust has settled, it’s time for a review of life in Lahndan Tahn.

As someone born and brought up in a small Borders town (pop. c.5000), who has subsequently spent much of his adult life in and around Edinburgh, which as a youngster was always an exciting day trip, the prospect of London was a little daunting.  It’s big, dirty, smelly, full of foreigners and traffic and murderers and druggies and prostitutes.  I mean, Newcastle is a big, place to me!!!

So, the size thing – yes, London is big, but, it’s pretty easy to get about in, all things considered, and it has the capacity to swallow events and leave you oblivious to there existence.  We were billetted in the Kensington area, Stamford Bridge was nearby, Craven Cottage fairly close, Wembley was visible from the office, Loftus Road around the corner.  All of these places were in use for big events in the time I was there, never once did it inconvenience me.  I’ve been in Edinburgh when the Six Nations are on, the city grinds to a halt!

Is it dirty?  Not really, for the most part it’s cleaner than many places, and certainly no worse.  My biggest bug bear?  It’s impossible to walk more than 10 yards without someone trying to hand you a free paper/magazine/lifestyle, and of course these publications end up all over the fucking place.

Smelly?  Have you been to Edinburgh when the breweries are in full “bloom”?  The main thing you notice about the London smell is the aroma of food….all those bloody foreigners cooking up some amazing dishes.  Which brings me to the bloody foreigners…..yes, there are many of them.  So many tourists, so many immigrant families and languages, and yet it all seems to fit pretty well together.  My only problems were with the odd Asian newsagent not taking Scottish notes, and the odd lairy “Cockernee” mouthing off about “sweaties”.

Traffic was a non issue for me, the tube got me everywhere I needed to be.  One thing about that though.  Londoners, what’s the rush?  Where’s the fire?  I used the Central line a lot, and the number of people rushing past in a blur to get the next train was amazing.  I mean, the Central line defines “there’ll be another one along in a minute”.  It’s not as if missing it would put a crimp in your day!  And that 9am Monday rom Liverpool Street tube….I’ve seen roomier sardine tins.  Nothing is so important you have to risk beheading yourself on the door just for two inches of space and a noseful of someones sweaty armpit. 

The danger side?  Never saw it, never felt it, never perceived it.  Yes there were many brasses around, mainly higher class ones due to where we were staying, in an area with many embassies.  I’m pretty sure the concierge knew exactly where to get us a lady had we asked, in fact I’m certain more than a few Eastern European lovelies plied their trade in our building.

I met some fantastic people, some of whom I had know online before going down, others were complete strangers.  I had some fantastic nights out, one in the Crown and Two Chairmen was a particular highlight, and if I only eat in two places in London again one will be Bodeans on Westbourne Grove, the other will be Chula in Hammersmith….

London, I’ll be back!

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