I have been really late with catching up with all my blogging since I got back from holiday. I’m very busy with the day job at the moment and haven’t had much time. However, I finally have a chance now to post all about my travels – better late than never!

Geth and I drove up to Mum and Dad’s in Edinburgh on the Sunday to meet up with the family – my brother and sister-in-law Malcolm and Steff had arrived from Canada on the Saturday – before we all travelled north. On the Monday, it was another long drive up to Aberdeen, with a brief lunch stop in Arbroath for some chippy goodness – separate post to follow at some point!

It was a bit of a wait to get onto the ferry but I was pleased to find that the small cars were loaded first – this meant that once my wee Skoda was in place on the car deck, Geth and I were able to grab a good space for the family in the lounge bar for the evening.

It was a fairly pleasant ferry journey north to Shetland, although first-time sailor Steff found it a bit nausea-inducing. In the morning, as soon as I’d driven to the B&B, I found a space to get on with some work – August has been busy from the off this year!

That afternoon, Geth and I found a nice café called the Dowry for lunch – it was so good that we ended up eating there five days in a row! – and then went for a walk around Lerwick to plot out where we were going to do our long runs the next day. I hadn’t slept well on the ferry so I got a fairly early night before the run.

It was nice running around Lerwick – a good way to see the town again after twelve years, especially as we had to do three laps to make the scheduled 14k we were both running that week! It was back to the Dowry for breakfast, as I’d been eyeing up the waffles the day before, and decided I’d earned them after my run.

Waffles with ice cream and marshmallows
Probably completely undid any calorie deficit I’d accomplished with the run. Delicious though!

I had a fairly quiet Wednesday afternoon – I had a bit of work to do again – before meeting up with the family for a meal at an Indian restaurant where we’d eaten when we were last in Shetland twelve years ago.

On the Thursday, Geth and I drove down to Sumburgh so that we could visit the excavation at Old Scatness. It wasn’t really open when we were last in Shetland as it had only recently been excavated, but they’ve got a nice wee visitor centre nowadays. Geth loved the site and could probably have stayed there for another hour!

Old Scatness
A bit windswept at the Old Scatness site!

Back in Lerwick, we had an afternoon snack at the Dowry, and a chippy with the family again for tea. (On reflection I’m amazed that I only put on half a pound during the holiday! I did do a fair bit of running though…)

Geth and I met up with Malcolm and Steff for breakfast (at the Dowry again, you’ll be amazed to learn) on the Friday morning, and then went to the Shetland Museum. The museum hasn’t really changed since we visited in 2007, but it’s always worth a poke around.

St Clair IV deck plan
This is the deck plan that hung on the wall of the passenger deck of the St Clair IV, the P&O ferry on which we always travelled to Shetland in the ’80s and ’90s when I was a kid. I must have looked at that deck plan on the actual ship a hundred times back in the day, and the fact that it’s now in a museum makes me feel a bit old.

In the evening, we met up with relatives Joyce and Douglas at the Waterfront restaurant. There was a lot of fish eaten by everyone else, but I was pleased to find that the veggie option was my old favourite, pasta and pesto. Cheesecake too, which is always welcome (see forthcoming cheesecake roundup post).

On the Saturday morning, Geth and I packed all of our remaining stuff into the car and then went on foot on the Bressay ferry to get to the start line of Bressay parkrun. After parkrun, we visited Joyce and Douglas for lunch and a brief tour of Bressay in the mist, before heading back to Lerwick so that I could get some work admin sorted out courtesy of the Dowry’s wifi.

Later that afternoon, we all drove back to the ferry terminal, and Geth and I and the Skoda got onboard nice and promptly again! It was a slightly bumpier ride than going up, and again I found it difficult to sleep on the boat, but we arrived nice and early in Aberdeen and the Sunday morning traffic was so quiet that we were back in Edinburgh by ten o’clock.

We had a couple more days in Edinburgh – I had to spend all of Sunday and Monday working, but Geth and I were able to meet up with our friend Kieran on the Monday night, and then we went to the City Cafe with Malcolm and Steff to have breakfast with my cousin Freya and her boyfriend Ryan on the Tuesday morning, before Geth and I headed back to Newcastle in the afternoon.

Hopefully it won’t be another twelve years before I make it back to Shetland again!

‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ at the V&A

I first heard that this exhibition was coming to the V&A in early 2018, and was excited to find out that it would coincide with my London Marathon trip. As soon as the tickets became available in the autumn, I booked a slot the day after the race, banking on the fact that the pretty outfits would distract me from having to stand on marathon-tired legs for a couple of hours!

Dior is my favourite fashion house, but I didn’t actually know much about the life of Christian Dior himself, so the initial part of the exhibition, which focused on his early years and his first forays into the fashion industry, was really interesting. The late ’40s and early ’50s fashions shown were beautiful (and probably totally at odds with postwar austerity/rationing for most European women, but…!).

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit
An example of the New Look. Not sure about the wicker hat, but the shape of the outfit is lovely!

There followed an equally interesting section about Princess Margaret’s love of Dior clothes and how it fitted in with her already-colourful life as a young royal. They had the dress that Dior designed for her 21st birthday portrait on display.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit
Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress from 1951. Kinda beats the cheap scuzzy mid-’00s gothwear I wore for my 21st in 2006 hands-down! Don’t think it would have held up to a night of booze-sticky sofas in the Tron pub though.

Later in the exhibition, there was a large room dedicated to the history of the Dior house and its different creative directors throughout the years. I appreciated the ’80s era designs best, of course…

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit
Dior outfits of the ’80s! Interestingly, these are all from the first collection of Gianfranco Ferré as creative director in 1989. Marc Bohan was creative director for the majority of the ’80s, but because he’d held the post since 1960, his section of the exhibition focused on his ’60s designs.

…but the most colourful and fun dresses on display were those of John Galliano, who was creative director during the ’00s. I’m not normally a fan of ’00s fashion (largely due to too many cringey memories of wearing it), but I really liked these.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit
Stunning colours! Not really dresses for real-life wear though.

I bought the exhibition book afterwards, so I’m looking forward to curling up with it at some point and looking at some pictures that are a bit better than these ones off my phone camera!

I was also excited to see that the V&A have another fashion exhibition on at the moment – one about Mary Quant. My post-marathon legs couldn’t have coped with another hour or two of standing, though, so that’ll be one for next time I’m in London – it’s on till February 2020 so there’s plenty of time.

Out and about in Inverness

Geth and I had an extra day in Inverness yesterday after Sunday’s half marathon, and thankfully it was much better weather than we’d had the day before! We went for a long walk into town so that our post-race legs wouldn’t get too stiff.

After a quick bit of breakfast in Costa (Geth didn’t feel adequately caffeinated by the tea provided in the hotel room), we headed along the river and onto the Ness Islands, which were really, really pretty in the sunshine. The tall pine trees and system of bridges reminded me of Channelwood in the first Myst game (if you played videogames in the ’90s you will know what I’m talking about!).

Ness Islands
Wonder if there’s a lift inside one of these trees?
Ness Islands
Bridges and trees! I’d love to go back in the summer.
Ness Islands
Geth above the River Ness.

Once we got to the southern tip of the islands, we headed back the way we came and went up to Inverness Castle. We were too cheap to pay the entry fee to get the advertised views of the city, but we still got a good look out over the river and the centre of town.

Inverness Castle
It would have been nice to have that blue sky on the Sunday!

We finished with lunch at the Filling Station (a Scottish restaurant chain that we’ve both missed since moving to England!) – there may have been pizza, which will be logged soon.

Adventures with old buildings

After a long walk (the Metro wasn’t running today!) and a quick vintage fair session this morning, I met up with Mum, Dad and Geth again and we headed off in the car to see some local archaeology-related stuff. First up was Derwentcote Steel Furnace, an 18th century structure that was apparently featured on an episode of Time Team at some point.

Derwentcote Steel Furnace
I’m guessing the ground was originally slightly lower!

We then headed to the Land of Oak & Iron visitor centre, mainly because they had a coffee shop and everyone wanted a coffee. They did also have some wall features.

Land of Oak & Iron diagram
Stuff that used to exist in the area!

They also had this bell, which might have come from a Napoleonic warship, but it’s been lost and recovered so many times that nobody’s really sure.

Bell at Land of Oak & Iron
It’s also not enough of a bell to ring anymore.

Finally, we headed to Corbridge to see the excavated Roman town there. We’d missed the opening hours, but there’s so much of it you can still see the buildings from outside.

Corbridge Roman Town
Lots of Roman streets!

After that, it was back to Newcastle for Italian food and more ginger beer. It’s been a nice weekend, but I should definitely get back to normal eating tomorrow!

OOTD 17th February 2019
OOTD: vintage dress for a day out. Dress Fink Modell (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), belt unknown brand (vintage 1980s, thrifted from Mum 2019), tights Primark (2017), shoes Office (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Murray Gold – Martha’s Theme
Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK
Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine
Tears For Fears – Change
Justin Bieber – Love Yourself
Madness – Driving In My Car
The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
Post Malone and Swae Lee – Sunflower

And a couple of bonus tracks that Geth was humming earlier:

Traditional – Land Of Hope And Glory
Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra

Leaving Toronto

Canada part ten…


I had ALL THE FOOD at hotel breakfast on my last morning in Toronto, because I knew I wouldn’t get another chance!  The French toast was amazing and I’ve missed it since I left, although obviously there’s no way I would be staying at target if I were eating that every morning.

Geth went off for a meeting with a contact he’d made at the conference while I packed.  Mum and Dad arrived at our hotel shortly afterwards, and we caught up with the Tour de France on the TV – then once Geth had returned and Malcolm had arrived, we went down to the hotel bar for a couple of drinks.  It was nice to have one last drink together before we had to head off.

We collected my bags and walked over to the Holiday Inn, from which Mum and Dad had booked a taxi to the airport.  It was sad to say goodbye to Malcolm, but everyone’s already looking forward to meeting up again on this side of the pond next summer.  Geth had another day to spend in Toronto, but for now I had to leave it behind – I’m sure I will be back again before long.

In Toronto

A museum Monday

Canada part nine…


On the Monday, which was my last full day in Toronto, Geth and I decided to go and visit the Royal Ontario Museum.  Before that, however, we headed to Carlton Street for a quick look round the Maple Leaf Gardens, which is next door to the Holiday Inn where Mum and Dad were staying.

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto
The exterior of the building, including the front signage, has stayed the same since it was built in the 1930s. It was originally the tallest structure in the vicinity, but is now dwarfed by its neighbours!

The Maple Leaf Gardens is currently used for sports by Ryerson University (the same uni that was hosting the conference Geth was attending while we were in Toronto).  They took it over and massively refurbished the interior in the early ’10s.  In the ’00s, it lay empty and deserted, but up until 1999, it was a thriving venue for political events and music concerts and was the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team (hence the name of the venue).

(Incidentally, it’s always really annoyed me that the team are called the Maple Leafs rather than the grammatically-correct Maple Leaves.  This is why I will never get into watching ice hockey.  #proofreaderproblems)

As a concert venue, the Maple Leaf Gardens hosted Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and pretty much everyone else who was big in the 20th century.  In 1984, Duran Duran filmed the video for The Reflex there, which was one of my main reasons for wanting to go and have a nosey around.

Inside the building, there are lots of boards on the walls telling you about the history of the venue.  The number of famous sayings that were apparently coined there is difficult to believe!

'Elvis has left the building'
‘Elvis has left the building’.

‘Elvis has left the building’ – apparently said for the first time at the Maple Leaf Gardens!  Wikipedia claims differently.

'He shoots, he scores'
‘He shoots, he scores’.

‘He shoots, he scores’ – apparently said for the first time at the Maple Leaf Gardens!  Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary do back this one up.


‘Hat-trick’ – apparently originated at the Maple Leaf Gardens!  Geth didn’t believe this one for a second, and again Wikipedia claims differently – cricket players were using the term almost a century earlier.

Still, I guess one out of three turning out to be true is not bad going.

After a pleasant wander around the venue, we headed over to the Royal Ontario Museum.  Geth just wanted to have a look around the main museum, but I was more interested in one of the exhibitions they had on – a collection of work by fashion designer Iris van Herpen and her interesting collaborations with architect Philip Beesley.  The creative and design process behind making the pieces was fascinating – there was a short film all about it that was being shown in the exhibition hall – but it was the beautiful dresses being shown in the hall that were the best thing:

Iris van Herpen couture dress
Perhaps a little impractical for the supermarket, but it’s very pretty.

The shiny installations dangling from the ceiling were nice as well!

Philip Beesley installations
I wouldn’t mind some of these for the house, though sadly I don’t think our ceilings are high enough.

After I’d finished looking around the exhibition, I met back up with Geth and we took a quick trip to the dinosaur floor.  They had some good skeletons, both real and replica, but it was a bit too full of kids having pictures taken with the T-Rex, so we eventually decamped to the Museum Tavern nearby, which is one of our favourite pubs in Toronto, for a couple of pints and a good chat with the barman.

In the evening, we met up with Mum, Dad, Malcolm and Steff for our last meal in Toronto, at Scaddabush.  This involved more pizza (which was served on a board with SPECIAL PIZZA SCISSORS for cutting it up!  They were amazing and I want a pair!), more cheesecake, and more crayons for scribbling on the table:

Restaurant table scribblings
Message from Steff on our last family dinner table!

After the meal, we said goodbye to Steff – she was working and wouldn’t be able to see us off the next day – and Geth and I headed back to our suite at the Grand for one last sleep in the city (for me, anyway).

Take me out to the ball game

Canada part eight…


On the Sunday in Toronto, Geth and I had a lie-in (or as much of a lie-in as you can have when you’ve never quite adjusted to Toronto time) after getting up early the day before – and then after breakfast, we headed to the Holiday Inn to meet Dad, and the three of us walked through Toronto in the pouring rain towards the Rogers Centre, where we were going to see the Blue Jays play.

I’d never been to a baseball game before, but after we met up with Malcolm and Steff and went into the stadium, Malcolm explained that the Blue Jays are only the second worst team in the league at the moment and their opponents for the weekend series, the Baltimore Orioles, are the worst, which was why the Blue Jays had already won two out of three games.

The Rogers Centre is huge, and is full of stalls where you can buy souvenir merchandise, booze, and pizza – my three favourite things.  I got a Blue Jays t-shirt from the sale rack, and had to go with a Bacardi Breezer to drink as I didn’t fancy any of the beers – I don’t think I’ve had one of those since I was a teenager.  Luckily, for subsequent rounds, Geth managed to find me some Brickworks 1904 to drink.  The pizza was good too!

I really enjoyed the game – baseball turns out to be a nice relaxed thing where you can dash in and out for drinks and food all the time, and the atmosphere reminded me of going to see a weekend of Sevens rugby at Murrayfield back in 2007.

Baseball game
The Blue Jays fielding.

It looked for a while like the Blue Jays might lose, and a lot of the fans left the stadium early, but they pulled it back in the last couple of innings for a nice exciting win at the end!

After the game, I took a picture of Geth with his namesake street sign:

Rees Street, Toronto
Want street sign?

We had another nice meal in the Holiday Inn bar in the evening – no cheesecake for me this time, however, as I’d already tried all the ones at the Holiday Inn!

Post-parkrun Saturday in Toronto

Canada part seven…


Returning from parkrun on the Saturday was a lot more relaxing than getting there had been!  A couple of friendly fellow parkrunners gave us a lift back to Whitby train station, and we got on the GO train to head back to Toronto.  I like the GO trains because they’re double-decker, like the trains in Italy:

Double-decker train
Double-decker train, complete with lots of Toronto Blue Jays fans going into the city for the game!

We had some lovely lakeside views going back into Toronto.

Lake Ontario from the train
Lake Ontario from the train.

Once back in Toronto, there were lots of interesting things to see on the way back to our hotel, including this insanely tacky dog-themed fountain:

Tacky dog fountain in Toronto
Want plastic dog statue?

After we got back to our hotel for a post-parkrun shower, we headed to Panera for a coffee and a pastry, having missed the window for breakfast at the hotel.  The pastry was delicious and I can still taste it now.  After tomorrow’s weigh-in, I may have to put aside some syns for something similar!

We then went shopping – Geth for shorts (which he couldn’t find in the right style at the right price point, so we gave up) and boxers (trusty ol’ H&M did some Star Wars ones!), and me for tops (H&M again) and underwear (on a good deal at Victoria’s Secret Pink, but Geth was not impressed with how expensive bras are these days).  Geth’s habitual ‘Valleys boy’ reaction to spending a lot of money in the shops is to go and find a pub for a stiff drink, so we went to one of Toronto’s many ‘British’ bars and watched the sport on the TV again.

Me with a Somersby
Somersby cider again! I probably drank more of it in Toronto than I have done in the UK for the whole two and a bit years since Resistanz Festival stopped running.

In the evening, we went out for Mum’s birthday meal at the Pickle Barrel, joined by Malcolm and Steff and Steff’s parents Mike and Antoniette – it was lovely to catch up with them.  I skipped the starter this time so that I could be sure of fully enjoying the Brown Cow cheesecake!

Toronto continues tomorrow.

Quieter days in Toronto

Canada part five…


One of the good things (and also one of the bad things) about being a freelancer who works over email is that I can take my work everywhere I go.  The negative side of this is that I’m never truly on holiday, but the positive side is that I don’t miss out on work when it arrives, and it’s still important for me to take every work opportunity that comes my way, because of the specific way in which my business is growing.

This is how I found myself sitting at a desk working all day on the Thursday of our Toronto trip.  As work spaces go, though, our hotel suite wasn’t bad – the desk was really nicely set up, and that gorgeous view from the window was a lot more interesting than my usual work surroundings!

In the evening, we all met up at Kalendar, a restaurant just down from Geth’s favourite boardgame cafe on College Street, and I had pizza and blueberry cheesecake.  Geth informed me that there was a red phone box next to the toilets downstairs, but my excitement was dashed upon finding this not-at-all-a-classic-British-phone-box:

Telephone kiosk
Most definitely not a K Series.

Also, when I was spinning around confused with my phone camera, looking for this phone box, I got a very strange look from a guy finishing his business in the gents’ facilities, which were in full open view of the hallway.  Awkward.

Afterwards, we went back to Malcolm and Steff’s place for a couple of drinks and to meet Sushi the cat.

On the Friday morning, I did a bit more work (and finally finished my Now! marathon!) before heading down to the Elephant & Castle pub to meet Geth, who had just delivered his conference paper.  On the way, I did the irritating tourist thing of holding up pedestrian traffic at a crossing to get this nice CN Tower picture:

CN Tower from downtown Toronto
Pretty skyscraper shot! I like the serendipitous placing of the bird as well.

Readers with good memories might remember the Elephant & Castle from this Phone Box Thursday post about their red phone box.  The pub is still a good stop with lots of sports on the TV and good cider on the bar, and Geth was finally able to have some decent chicken wings:

Chicken wings
Definitely not Chicken McNuggets!

I also really like the stained glass windows – the patterns are lovely and retro.

Retro stained glass
I had T-shirts with this sort of pattern on back in the ’80s.

After a couple of pints, we headed outside to make sure the phone box was still present and correct…

Red phone box
Still there, still standing!

…and then went to the Black Bull for some arctic air-con, a very talkative guy sitting next to us at the bar who was telling us about all the gigs he went to in the ’70s (and is apparently friendly with Martin Gore from Depeche Mode!), and Geth’s new favourite pint, a beer called 8th Sin:

Hop City 8th Sin
Hop City 8th Sin. Geth went back here the following week, after the rest of us had already left Toronto, for some more 8th Sin and some even better chicken wings.

In the evening, we met up with Mum and Dad for another meal of delicious pizza and cheesecake in the Holiday Inn.

More from Canada tomorrow!

Scotland, and a hen do

Geth and I just got back to Newcastle…again.  We’re back for a good while now though!

We’ve been in Scotland for the weekend, for the respective hen and stag parties of our friends Lisa and Kieran.  We headed off on Friday afternoon, just a couple of hours after Geth’s Canada luggage finally showed up, and managed to beat the ridiculous UK train chaos caused by the thunderstorms by getting on an alternative train and sitting on the floor of the doorway section.  Not hugely comfortable, but at least we got to Edinburgh around the time we were supposed to.

After a quiet evening at Mum and Dad’s, we had an uncomfortable night’s sleep (it was REALLY hot and muggy) and then got up for parkrun, which I will post about later in the week.  On returning to the house, I grabbed the world’s quickest shower and got ready to be picked up by my friend Fi to travel to the QHotels Westerwood Spa near Cumbernauld.

Now! #1, #10 and #100
I also had just enough time to snap a photo of my two new Now! albums with their ancient cousin, because I am super lame.

Having also picked up our other friends Gemma and Sarah, we headed along the motorway to the spa, checked in and spent a pleasant few hours in the hotel bar, during which Steph, Lisa, Nikki and Becky also arrived.  At five o’clock we went downstairs for the treatments we’d booked.  I’d never been to a spa before, so I had no idea what to expect from my face and back treatment, but it turned out to be a lovely massage with lots of oil and exfoliation and so on.  It was so relaxing, I nearly fell asleep!  The only downside is that two showers later, I’ve still not been able to get the oils out of my hair.

After the treatments, we were taken to a relaxation room, where we were able to chill out on daybeds with glasses of water for a while, and then we all went for a swim float in the warmer, shallower part of the pool and a soak in the jacuzzi.

Dinner was at eight, but unfortunately, because the service was really slow and poor, we were in the restaurant for three hours, at which point they still hadn’t served our desserts and we ended up having them brought through to the room where we were booked to have a cocktail and DVD night.  The poor service from the waiting staff didn’t spoil our evening, but it was very frustrating, especially as we kept having to go and chase up our orders (and when they billed us for exceeding our food allocation when we hadn’t!).

Still, we had a good time watching Moulin Rouge! and Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and I had two delicious cocktails – the second one was especially good, as it came with a drumstick lolly dipped in it, and I’ve not had one of those since I was a kid.

After a good sleep, we went for hotel breakfast – I resisted the bread table, as I’ve got to lose my Canada holiday weight this week, but the scrambled egg was amazing (much better than the egg in Toronto – sorry, Grand Hotel), the mushrooms and tomatoes were very welcome, and I got to have a tattie scone, which I never get to do as I’m rarely in hotels in Scotland.

We spent a good couple of hours chatting in the hotel bar again, but decided to skip the lunch we’d booked, as most people were too full for lunch/needed to get home.  We headed back in Fi’s car again, this time with added Steph, and got back to Edinburgh in plenty time for me to go back to Mum and Dad’s and repack my stuff.  I also caught up with Geth, who had enjoyed Kieran’s stag yesterday (they’d spent the afternoon and evening boardgaming – what else?).

We had a much more straightforward train journey back to Newcastle, and are now relaxing with the World Series Triathlon on BBC iPlayer.

Not a perfect weekend, but that massage was so good that I’m definitely interested in going to a spa again!

OOTD 28th July 2018
Saturday OOTD: comfy travelling outfit. T-shirt Lauren Ralph Lauren (bought at vintage fair in 2018, but still available on the website so probably not that old), leggings Primark (2018).


OOTD 29th July 2018
Sunday OOTD: my current favourite day dress, in a colour I’ve never worn before but quite like! Dress Primark (2018), terrible hair due to the aforementioned spa oils!