The GateHouse Pub

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I love Sarah’s prompt for this week, but I don’t think I can give an authoritative answer to this one. I will tell you about one pub where I have some special memories I cling to though.

Where I am living now there are pubs a-plenty, and lots of restaurants. This area is very popular with tourists and visitors. Most of the pubs are owned by Youngs – a pub restaurant company with quite an empire up and down the country. I don’t know which is the best. I have visited most of them with friends, but I have not adopted any of them as my pub of preference.

The thing about a pub is…it’s not just the food, it’s not just the staff, it’s not just about the comfort and seating, it’s not just about the music they play, it’s not just the other people at the pub…it’s all of the above that create an atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed and forget all your troubles.

In the town I grew up, all of the local pubs were a bit too rough and ready for me to go anywhere near them! But I have travelled a lot within the UK, and I discovered country pubs when local volunteers took us for a drink after a long day on a construction site or a large public event. They took us to some beautiful pubs with a relaxed atmosphere and we felt comfortable there.

Of the pubs I have visited up and down the country with friends and workmates, some I have enjoyed, others not so much. I think on the whole, when I didn’t enjoy a pub, it was because of the behaviour of some eeed-yats who had drunk too much and decided to act up. Whenever that has happened, my friends and I would make a hasty departure. That’s the risk of pubs – you never know who else will be there and how much they will drink and the effect it has on them. So we are always ready to move on when the atmosphere changes.

I have lots of memories of fun nights with friends at pubs. We have played cards, we have put the world to rights, we have shared portions of chips or onion rings, we have argued over whose round it was, we have laughed, even danced, and occasionally cried together. In London especially, many of my friends and I have lived in tiny flats, where we had to be considerate of our neighbours. So meeting up for a drink at a local pub where there was more space and we could make a little bit more noise was handy.

I know quite a few of the pubs in Highgate, Hampstead, Muswell Hill, Finchley, Mill Hill, Whetstone, Crouch End, Holloway, Kentish Town….and beyond. I am going to tell you about one pub, it’s not necessarily the best pub, but it is one pub where I have some memories with friends that I like to keep close.

 

My memory is of an evening that ended at The Gatehouse Pub in Highgate Village. But the whole evening is one I remember fondly. It took place on a Thursday evening, at the end of a warm summer’s day.

I met with the group I met every Thursday for a bootcamp. Normally we would run down to a local cricket pitch, where the class would start. We would run sprints, and do squats and leapfrogs and all sorts of different exercises. But this night was different. One of the lads was leaving London to move abroad as he was engaged to be married. So we were going to have the bootcamp at a different location – Hampstead Heath.

We drove to Hampstead Heath. We ran from the Highgate side of the Heath over to the Hampstead side. When we reached the Hampstead Ponds for mixed bathers (there are men only and women only ponds too), we stripped our running clothes off and all of us had our swimming costumes on. We jumped into the water and swam a couple of circuits around the pond. There was a bit of splashing each other too. There was hardly anyone else there at that time so we weren’t annoying anyone.

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Afterwards, we put our running clothes on over our swimming costumes, and then ran back over to the Highgate side of the Heath. There we found a grassy spot and the guy who took the class shouted out some instructions which we followed, press-ups, squats, leap frogs and stretches.

VW camper.pngTwo of our friends (a married couple) had a VW Camper Van. So we all got changed in the back of the van. The girls went first, we had to take our damp clothes off and have a quick dry off and put on our warm dry clothes. Then it was the lad’s turn to change. Once we had all changed, we walked up the hill so we could have a goodbye drink with our friend who was moving abroad for his wedding.

After all that exercise we were hungry. So a few of us ordered some food. I can’t remember the drink I ordered…but I do remember I ordered a veggie burger. I remember that night, sitting with friends whose company I really enjoyed. For almost two years they had been a weekly escape from the challenges in my life. I felt happy with them, relaxed. Some of them knew Jack, my ex-flatmate, but they didn’t mention him. Nobody teased me about him, nobody taunted me. None of them referred to something that had been said about him and I. All of that group just liked me for me. We had the same interests, we loved keeping fit and exercising in a really fun way – outside in the fresh air.

at pub with friends.jpgI loved Thursday evenings because they were a complete escape from Jack, who had been pretty much making my life miserable for around two years by this point. That night we sat in The Gatehouse Pub and I felt happy, I felt really settled and secure. It was a lovely summer’s evening and I had spent it doing what I loved with people I felt very comfortable with. We laughed and we made a fuss of our friend who was moving. It was his last bootcamp with us and we all said our goodbyes. Although it was sad someone was leaving, I remember feeling so very happy that night.

But the very next day, Jack was back to his tricks taunting me, yet another rumour about he and I was doing the rounds on Facebook and Instagram and in Whatsapp groups. I strenuously denied it, as always. I passed Jack several times and he always looked at me with a hateful expression. That was a busy weekend. I was involved in several work projects and had training sessions to conduct. Also I helped a good friend with a huge party she had organized for the Saturday night. I only arrived back home after 3am on the Sunday morning after all the clearing up. Then Sunday was very busy. On Monday I had a television interview. I must have looked awful because I was so tired. Jack was on the same bus as me that day. He kept up his disdainful attitude.

AmbulanceOn the Tuesday I saw him several times and he was horrid. That evening, after I had been out with some friends in Highgate Village, at a pizzeria, I turned down an offer of a lift home by a friend, who lived near me. Instead, I walked to Hampstead Heath and sat on a bench and cried. At least an hour must have passed before a man sat next to me. The next morning, Wednesday morning, I was in an ambulance on my way to hospital.

at the pubIt turned out that was the last time I was ever at the Thursday bootcamp I loved so much. The last time I was with a group of friends who made me feel I could be me. The last time I was in a pub in Highgate with friends. The last evening I remember feeling happy and relaxed despite the challenges Jack was causing in my life. I cannot tell you how much I would love to be back there in the Gatehouse Pub in Highgate Village with people who made me feel comfortable and relaxed and happy.

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Is there a pub near you that you would describe as the best local pub? This is the writing prompt from Sarah Elizabeth MooreSarah Elizabeth Moore. Please link to her original post below:

Writing Prompt #11

 

Life Is Not Always A Bed Of Roses

From the sweet but confused comment I have been receiving of late I can see that it may be wise of me to remind you that because work is very busy, I am republishing some of my older posts. Enjoy…

Roses in St Mary's Garden, Regent's Park. Janna SchreierHowever, today that is all that life was.  Many beds of beautiful roses!

I have spent the day with some friends from abroad who are visiting London.  Those of us who live in London, often avoid the tourist traps, unless we have time to be idle and a lot of patience with visitors wandering around taking photographs of phone boxes, buses, and monuments to people who are from the minds of every day Londoners.  But I had booked the day off so that I could join my visitors and be a helpful tour-guide for them.  That meant I would be in the midst of throngs of tourists (accept I knew where I was going, and knew the short-cuts to avoid being slowed down too much).

My friends had a list of places they wanted to visit and take many photographs of.  You can imagine…the Her Majesty The Queen’s digs, Big Ben…which does not chime at the moment and has scaffolding all over it, the big Ferris Wheel that moves so slowly and yet charges a rate of over £1 per minute (cheaper to take an Uber I am sure), the tall pointy sky-scarper they put up a few years ago near London Bridge, and finally, Covent Garden (I was pleased about that because my favourite ice-cream parlour happens to be there).  I have also agreed to take them down to Wimbledon as they want to take lots of photos of the tennis club, and they want to go to Grenwich.  I am not sure if I will have the time to take them to Grenwich, but they can’t get themselves into too much of a pickle on their own in Grenwich…it is perfect for tourists and visitors to London.

My friends were also happy to take me up on a couple of my suggestions I offered to them.  How pleased they were when they saw this feast for the eyes.

Suggestion Number One:  If you are in London this glorious month of June – please make the time to visit Queen Mary’s Gardens in the middle of Regents Park.  Little pocket of paradise that it is – you need to see it! 

If you like roses…you cannot be disappointed.  Just don’t wait too long.  The rose season never lasts long enough for my liking.

I have told Goldfinch that next time he visits me, I want to take him.  I can hardly imagine a more perfect day than walking hand in hand around this little pocket of delight…and I will take a pic-nic for us too.

Keep SmilingI don’t think I want to clutter this post with too many words that will distract you from these lovely photos.  But please allow me to recommend that you look for my favourite rose.  It is a big fat bold joyful yellow one named “Keep Smiling”.

I will confess to you something that you may have already picked up on if you have being paying close attention to my posts.  June… aaaaah… my favourite month of the year since childhood.  However, it was a very hot June night that I went to the park on my own…and woke up the next morning on my way to hospital in an ambulance.  It was not Regents Park…it was another famous London Park nearer to my accommodation.

BluesI am already finding it hard…but I am keeping my chin up and keeping my head busy and my heart full of things that make me smile…like roses…and Goldfinch!

It will be alright… it will pass.  We shall bear it on our chin, with a grin…like any true Northerner.  We will get through this!

For the last two Junes I have found I had to work at not letting “flash-backs” from that night cause me distress.  Usually I go away…but this time I will be delaying my vacation by a day or two.  So the anniversary of the day I went to the park…I will be at work.  We will find out if that is a good idea.  Then the next day, the anniversary of my first day in hospital – I will be travelling across the country in a train.  I hope it will be a journey unlike the one in my post “One Epic Day On The British Rail Network.”

Then I have two weeks of touring the country, seeing family and friends…I shall take photos and share with you wonderful tales of my adventure with you.

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I have more photos from the day out with my visitors.  Rather than one huge post…I will break up our sight-seeing trip around the “big smoke”.

You might not really like scrolling through other people’s “holiday spam”…so I will be kind to you!

A Very Different Year In London

Christmas, London, Christmas Ornament

Back to the big choky smoke. Back to work. Back to the concrete jungle.

London has been different this year. More people out walking and running. More people in the green parks (when they were open). Parts of London like ghost towns. Not as much hustle and bustle. Cafes, restaurants, pubs either closed or quieter than ever before.

The difference in London skies dramatic – no noise and chemtrails from planes. Hearing ecstatic birdsong all over London. Less crowding on public transport. A calm and unusual patience as people queued patiently outside supermarkets waiting for their turn to shop for groceries. Bizarre conversations about the search for toilet paper and paracetamol and alcohol gel – and there was a stage when nobody could get hold of facemasks, whereas now they are littered on every pavement.

People have asked all year – why would we ever go back to the crazy pace of life that we operated at before? Why would we ever do that? The answer for some people is simply – money. Money has been driving us at a horrid frenzied stressful pace. Now, will we be content with less?

2021 is likely to be crunch time financially. I expect governments to do some pretty drastic things. We will have to wait and see exactly what they do. But some of you know what they are going to do already. You have read the book hey!

Is It Right To Block Your Fiancé’s Number?

I was up late last night. I kept on wanting to crawl to bed, but then I had an email from Goldfinch and I wanted to reply, and then Jack called and it was way past one o’clock in the morning when I finally drifted to sleep.

Then at half past six this morning, Jack called again to check how I was doing – sigh. He is so lovely, but…well, I was so enjoying my sleep! Bless his cute little dimples!

Well, I struggled to muster any appetite yesterday. I am not sure why. But this morning, my appetite was back to normal. So I used more of the fresh produce in my fridge – why did I buy so much spinach?

Toasted bagel, vegan cheese, poached egg which burst as you can see, sautéed mushrooms and onions and wilted spinach.

Now I am going for a walk! Storm is rolling in tonight! Want to get out there while the weather is still fair!

“Grease” the musical is on the box this evening – I am going to put my phone on silent for that! I do love my darling Jack, but I am almost thinking of blocking his number! Hopelessly devoted….!!!

CARAMEL’S COCKTAIL BAR IS OPEN!!!

Did I ever imagine that today I would be hosting a virtual party on WordPress? Nope!!! But the plan changed last weekend when the UK government announced that London and surrounding areas are in Tier 4!! So thousands of people will be alone today – just like me! However, all is not lost, because we know how to throw a party!

So whether you are in London or anywhere else, all alone or just trying to escape the noise and in your household for a few minutes – please drop by today and say hello in the comments below! Tell us what you are drinking at home or place an order at CARAMEL’S COCKTAIL BAR. We serve cocktails and mocktails and the finest champagne!

There will be little nuggets to look OUT FOR TODAY – we have music, comedy and hopefully the games we planned will work too! But whatever you do – please know that if you are alone geographically – you do not have to be alone at all today. There is an amazing bunch here on WordPress who are determined to help everyone get through this cold, dark and perhaps challenging time.

I am going to start the day with things we would love for you to share with us:

  • Can you tell us which songs cheer you up – they don’t need to be festive – we just want to hear music that lightens our spirits and brings a smile to our face. You can leave an artist and song title and I will find a video to link to the comments or if you know how to do it, then please leave a video link yourself.
  • For those of you who have cameras and can load a picture onto your blog. Could you take a photo of something you are eating today – be it a cooked dinner, a cake, or something healthy – can you post a photo and pingback to this post so we can all drool over what you are eating please?
  • Do you have a favourite comedy sketch? It might be classic comedy or a spoof sketch. Could you find a video and leave a clip? Or give me some clues so I can find a clip to post? (Nothing offensive though please – this is an international party and we want everyone to feel welcome!)
  • Are you a poet? could you leave us with a few lines about either cocktails, parties, how to cope with being alone, showing unselfish love, or anything else that warms our hearts on a day when many of us will be missing our loved ones
  • Do you have a favourite blog post from either your own website or another blogger’s site that has brought a huge smile to your face during 2020?
  • Is there a special someone you want to give a shout out to? Let us know who you are missing most and who you would be with if it was not for the pandemic restrictions!

PLEASE DROP IN TO THE COMMENTS BELOW WITH ANY COMMENTS, VIDEO LINKS OR PINGBACKS

WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO SHARING TODAY WITH YOU!

When I say “we” I mean the royal we – as in me. But I know Jack and some of my other friends will be checking all the comments too.

To give you an idea of some of the amazing bloggers who have been making WordPress a sensation throughout 2020 here contributions from two of my favourite bloggers:

The incredibly talented Roberta Cheadle, the creator of Robbie’s inspiration has created an entire village from chocolate and gingerbread!!!!

https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/gingerbread-and-chocolate-christmas-diorama/

One of the bloggers who warms my heart and makes WordPress an absolute joy for me is Kristian, the creator of Tales from the mind of Kristian, has been recording songs that have certainly cheered me up right down to my toes!

https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com/2020/12/21/silver-bells-some-christmas-music/

This one is special – for all of us who are physically ALL MY OURSELVES – we can be united and connected with the people dearest to us and the most fabulous bloggers through WordPress and YouTube and Zoom and Instagram. I am not always a social media fan and truth be told – I am a bit of a technophobe – but when technology is used to warm hearts and be a positive influence on each other – kudos to that!!! Thank you Kristian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS FRIDAY – CARAMEL’S COCKTAIL CLUB!

You may have heard about the London lockdown which started on Sunday and will mean that thousands like myself will be all alone throughout the holidays. Well, in response I am hosting a virtual party. On Friday – CARAMEL’S COCKTAIL CLUB will be open and very glad to have you drop by!

Until then I am working every day, but I am very excited that there are so many ways we can connect during a time when we would normally be with our loved ones. The theme for CARAMEL’S COCKTAIL CLUB is simply FUN! We want you to bring music, laughter and anything that will warm our hearts and cheer us up at a time when many of us are all alone!

If you are anything like me you may have shed tears on realizing there will be no hugs and games with family and close friends. But we are going to rock being alone over the holidays with one spectacular virtual event!

Remember everyone – we are doing the right thing! We are protecting our loved ones! So we are going to make sure we have the kind of party that we deserve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ARE YOU READY TO PARTY?

London – We Can Do This!

I know….I know….this is not what we were expecting or hoping for. London and surrounding areas – we are grounded, exiled to home. No seeing any family or friends outside our own household for the foreseeable future – that’s right – all on our own throughout the holidays!

You have to laugh or you would cry hey!

So here I am raising my hands to make it clear I will be one of the many thousands of people who live alone in London who will literally be all by myself from Friday to Sunday! My support bubble (Jack) had already left London before the Tier 4 announcement! He is obviously going to stay up in the Lake District for at least a week.

We spoke on the phone earlier and he said “you will have to host an event on your blog inviting anyone to drop by and chat throughout the holidays” – with special guests anyone who is like me – all on our own!!!!!!!!!! Can you believe it?

So….look out for a post on Friday – Caramel is running a special event this year. I have decided to open up Caramel’s Cocktail Club and I will be inviting you to drop in and say hello, tell me what you are drinking or what you would like me to mix up for you. Jack is trying to help me set things up for some online games on the blog if anyone wants to join in the fun. Feel welcome to drop in songs, funny videos to cheer us up or leave anything to help the thousands like me who will be ALL ALONE!!!!!!!!!

It’s A Pea-Souper

As soon as I saw Fandango’s picture prompt in this week’s FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE, I thought to myself, “That looks like a pea-souper”. What is a pea-souper? The link below takes you to the Wikipedia explanation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pea_soup_fog

Have you ever been in a pea-souper?

When you feel your life has become a pea-souper…and you are lost in fog so thick that you can barely see your foot in front of you, without knowing how you became so lost and not knowing how to get out of this pickle – do not despair.

Look up – even in a thick fog you can see the stars.  Take the next step in front of you. Then take another small step. Someone can see exactly where you are, how you became lost in this fog, where you have been wandering and what you need to do to get out of the fog.

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This was my response to the picture prompt provided in this week’s

FANDANGO’S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE

FFFC

I painstakingly produced this post using the block editor and it was an interesting learning curve for me…to say the least. Is that a nice way of putting it?

No electronic devices were harmed in the production of this post…despite the frustration of the user, who was trying to make sense of the block editor.

I Have Often Walked Down This Street Before

Thames, London, River, Uk, CityI have lived in my little nest for over three years. It still doesn’t feel like home though. I miss my former home. My heart is up in Hampstead/Highgate/Muswell Hill (home for five years). But…I will have to wait and see what happens with Jack before I quit my current little abode.

Fandango, the creator of This, That, and The Other, has asked us to share some pics of the street where we live (as most of us are confined to barracks at the moment). I thought this was a great idea. You can see other bloggers who are taking part in Fandango’s post below:

On the Street Where You Live

I have to admit, I am so security conscious, I don’t feel I can. I live in a very iconic part of London, an area that tourists flock to. I am super-scared of strangers instantly recognising that they have walked down my street before. But I wanted to offer something of the paths I often walk.

So instead, I am going to post some photos I took during one of my walks. When I have an afternoon free, I often walk along the Thames and then, after crossing the river, I head up to my favourite spot in London (Queen Mary’s Garden). So this little montage has photos taken from the South Bank of the river and a couple from the beautiful park that I am missing very much. I hope to be able to visit before summer is over to see the roses there.

Celebrate A Normal Life

nutso.jpgI find more and more the concept of celebrity culture is getting to me. The main reason is what happened to me because of Jack. In my opinion it is sheer madness. I guess some of these people might enjoy the warped amount of attention they receive. But I think it is indecent. I do not think people should be given attention to the point where it becomes worship or idolisation. There are people who live in my road who are in the media for various reasons. There are two neighbours who are in politics, one famous author, one journalist for a major newspaper here, a few who have been involved in acting or modelling, we have some who have made their money with very successful businesses, one in sports, and the biggest house here belongs to one of the biggest names in the music industry. But to me, they are just neighbours, fellow humans, and that is all they are ever going to be. I am going to treat them the same way as anyone else.

conveyor beltAnother reason I am wary of celebrities is that I hate the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Often along with fame, comes wealth and parties. Alcohol and drugs and easy sex are touted before you like the conveyor belt on the BBC entertainment show “The Generation Game”. I hate that. I avoid anywhere and anybody who I am aware of as “dodgy”. But there have been other situations that I thought would be safe, only because what I saw was unacceptable to me, I made a quick escape. I hate the thought of some of our “celebrity” neighbours being involved in some of the disgusting habits I mentioned above.

I also despise the waste of absurd amounts on money on things like a flashy party, or a private jet. One thing I respect about Jack is he feels exactly the same way. He is very much against drugs. He has befriended and helped a lot of young men in some of the rougher communities in London. He takes his responsibility to them very seriously. And Jack foregoes many opportunities to make more money through entertainment, because he is devoted to volunteering for charities. He has made more than enough money to last a lifetime already. He has lived simply for a number of years, so that he can be on the same level with other volunteers. He has amazing energy and charisma, so he is very popular. And I guess the way he has featured in the entertainment industry adds to his popularity. But he handles it well.

jt quoteThere is a feeling that I find has developed within me in recent years. I have started to feel infuriated by the invasion of the press, and “fans” or just everyday people into the lives of those considered “celebrities”. I do not like the idea that someone might have to be so security conscious that they cannot enjoy a “normal” life. The invasion into not just Jack’s, but my own privacy was shocking. I know that some celebrities seem to like the attention. But I find it hard to swallow.

finchlI see people around in London. I know I have seen them on television at some stage. I used to live surrounded by cast from EastEnders (a British soap opera). But I have never watched a single episode. So to me, they were just my neighbours. There were famous musicians and television personalities. There were footballers and popstars. I would never have known if it wasn’t for friends pointing them out. To me they were just neighbours. I have lived in various “posh” parts of London. I mentioned earlier that round the corner from me is one of the biggest names in the music industry. I saw him the other day, with his family. I liked seeing something assuredly normal. I said “Good morning”, as I passed and they returned the greeting. We often greet each other. We never have had a proper conversation. The house cost a ridiculous amount of money, which was all over the press at the time. More millions than the digits we have on our body.

normal fam.jpgTo me, they are fellow humans, members of my human family. I wish them a happy life. I do not think they deserve anything nearing worship. But I really I don’t like the idea that people would show an unhealthy amount of interest, and threaten their ability to enjoy a happy family life. In fact, I strangely feel defensive over their privacy.

I have a relative on the other side of London. This particular family member is very well off. They are the closest of my family members geographically. But I am closer emotionally to the members of my family who are more down-to-earth, modest and devoted to volunteering, than my family members who are amassing great things for themselves. But as with all my family, I keep in touch, and I trek over to see my relative. Like a lot of uber-wealthy people she has “problems” and “issues”. Several times over the last two years I have seen someone I thought I recognised, but I could not place her. I thought she was a model. It is only fairly recently that I realized who she is.

normal lifeI know next to nothing about her. I have liked a couple of her songs. But I am told she is massive (by which I mean her popularity and “net worth”, I don’t mean her height – she is fairly tall which is why I assumed she was a model). I don’t care. I just want her to have a normal life and to feel safe. My relative confirmed who she is and threw in some castaway tittle-tattle remarks. Those comments meant nothing to me. One of my friends revealed herself as a huge fan of this musician. I decided I wouldn’t say anything about her living (at least some of the time) in the same road as my relative. For some reason, I just feel defensive over her, the same way as I feel defensive about the guy who lives round the corner from me. She should be able to live a normal life without feeling her safety is threatened. And it’s all because of what happened with Jack. I do not like the idea of anyone threatening their safety or their ability to live a normal happy family life.

breakfastaIt is a wonderful gift to have family and friends who love you for you. Not because you are rich or famous or even particularly talented. It is wonderful to be able to walk in the woods with other Londoners and kick autumn leaves around. It is wonderful to go swimming down in the nearby lido on a blistering hot day. It is wonderful to nip into to a local artisan bakery, to sit chatting over a latte and a palmier, and then to leave with a paper bag containing a sourdough loaf, or pick up some beautiful flowers from the florists for your hallway. These are things that everyday “normal” Londoners are able to enjoy. I don’t see any point in spending millions of pounds on a property here, if you have to hideway, or wear disguises, and you can’t go out and enjoy these little highlights of living in the pretty pockets that London still holds.

normal life1.jpgI like my place, because it is so hidden away. People do not even know it is there. The double sets of gates and the hidden staircase hide it away from the word outside. I didn’t feel safe when I lived near Jack. My privacy was being invaded so much. But in my gorgeous little hideaway here, I have started to feel more secure and I have been able to enjoy London again. Now I roam these streets as one of the neighbours. I am that caramel blonde with the sunshine smile who always says hello when she passes. I am the neighbour who checks the neighbours’ wheelie bins when they are on holiday (because they are always away when it is refuse collection day!). I am the woman who, at the weekend,  is always first into the bakery at the end of the road, because they only ever stock one large dark sourdough on a Saturday and one on a Sunday (no large loaves Monday – Friday) and I like to freeze it in portions and use it defrost and eat it during the week. I am living a normal life after I was drastically separated from Jack – and I have to admit, it feels great!