Category Archives: history

The world turn’d upside down…

November 1, 2015

After a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet

We lower our guns as he frantically waves a white handkerchief

And just like that, it’s over. We tend to our wounded, we count our dead

Black and white soldiers wonder alike if this really means freedom

Not. Yet

Anyone who has been around me in the last month or so knows I’ve been obsessively listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. I probably know it backwards at this point. We did try to get tickets before we left but the theatre gods weren’t with me on that one (well, we could have thrown $400 a piece at resale tickets but I think even my new husband doesn’t love me that much…)

Instead we returned to the Saratoga Inn where we he had whisked me off to after proposing. It’s all gorgeous turret rooms and real fires and oh my god, where do they get those bed sheets because they feel like heaven on a stick. (It’s called Union Gables, should anyone be in Upstate New York at any point and feel the urge to stay there. The breakfast is also delicious, by the way).

So instead of immersing ourselves in the greatest rap musical ever made about a key figure in US History…we immersed ourselves in the land it talks about instead.

The battlefield trees were on fire with colour. The air was crisp, the day sunny. Perhaps it had been this pleasant when British soldiers were being forced ever backwards by a fierce US Revolutionary militia. There is little, if anything, left to demarcate lines of bloodshed any more… but poles hve been placed and fake firepits to show where the soldiers would have camped on farmland and fields. There is still an old wooden farmhouse to build impressions of tents and mud and horses around.

Occasionally a sign with an audio story will actually work, and that makes all the difference in helping you imagine the way the battle was waged…in fact, the visitor’s centre has a really great LED visualisation of the way armies surged and retreated across this vast swathe of land. Which is pleasant enough now, driving down the tourist track in our rental car…but then?


Pause, and you might hear a twig snap underfoot of a blue-coated soldier as he reconnoitres the land. It could also be a squirrel, but when you’re lucky enough to be as alone in a National park as we were, anything is possible…right?

Our relaxing post-wedding 36 hours in Saratoga also took us to the Monument, which stands at the site where British soldiers, their wives and children retreated and camped, and finally surrendered. Not as famous as the battle of Yorktown, this however was the turning point of the US revolutionary war – France and Spain sent ships and aid, and the US ‘experiment’ gathered momentum. It also took us into a winery (oops, hic) and past General Schuyler’s house, which was sadly closed, but we did do a bit of peeking around the outside…

The world burned and turn’d upside down then, but there is nothing but crickets and silence now.


September 30, 2015

We interrupt this scheduled nothingness for this PSA: listen to this album, listen to it all, revel in wit and the wordplay and the insanely, wonderful visceral way Lin Manuel Miranda can bring history to life and omg Angelica and Alexander and omg Burr, sit down and omg founding father beef. This is everything right now and I already know it off by heart and am 100% brokenhearted that we couldn’t get tickets in October, and that I didn’t think to book ages ago when I first knew it was booking. WHAT AN IDIOT.

Hever Castle

April 5, 2014

The great side-effect of my fiance’s work stints away is that, when he’s here, we always make a priority to hire a car and go out for day trips around the South of England. Cue more “there-are-things-Ive-read-about-in-books-and-I-need-to-see-them” adventures; this time at Hever Castle, home at a point in history to the Boleyn family. You’re not allowed to take photos inside (for why?!) and my sneaky iPhone shots of the Henvy VIII bedstead/Anne Boleyn’s room were rubbish…hence why all these are exterior (and mainly garden) shots. We have to head out to find him a new suit now, so I won’t wax lyrical as per usual, but go if you can – there’s a particular leaded window looking down into the small courtyard where you can imagine being Anne (or Mary), watching the court’s most famous residence arrive at your house…that’s worth a trip, no?


The legend of Finn McCool

February 6, 2014

It was raining so hard when I landed in Belfast that the wind literally blew the queue of disembarking people backwards. Actually. And it may have been a real instruments-only landing for the pilot. Sitting next to the wing as we began descending I could see it…still there…bit of cloud…wing tip still visible…entirely white coverage…and then suddenly BLACK CLOUD NO WING OH EM GEE GOING TO – and then bumnphscrreeechn and we’d safely touched down on the tarmac. Thank. Goodness.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

But all was well because I had my entire weekend’s needs stuffed into my gorgeous new Herschel backpack and one of my favourite people picked me up in Herbelina (just wait) and we possibly literally didn’t stop talking for about 48 hours. And despite the fact that the rain continued into Saturday, she  – wonderful person that she is – drove me all the way out to the Giant’s Causeway to tell me the legend of Finn McCool and let me hop about the stones the way I’d read in a book once (and isn’t it always the way, that you just need to see a place after that?)

And I’m basically in love with it now. I can’t wait to go back in the summer…when it’s not almost entirely submerged. But I can’t tell you how lucky we were to get this break in the weather. It was so grim out that I thought we’d be outside for a maximum of ten minutes before we succumbed to the lure of hot chocolate (included in the ticket price! I love you, National Trust), and we may or may not have actually bought matching hats in the gift shop because it was bucketing it down even as we ran from the car to the visitor’s centre and even though we were wearing about 50 layers each, that was the only one we didn’t have.

So, be-hatted, be-scarved, be-woollen-ed in every way, we braced ourselves and – it. It had actually stopped raining. And as we walked down the path to the basalt stones, the sun actually began to peep out from behind the clouds. It was the most miraculous break ever, and I swear it felt like it had happened just for us. Just for my first visit…just to enchant.

If it wasn’t for the wind and the rain, those magnificent waves wouldn’t have been pounding the rocks – galloping, as Claire aptly put it, towards the shore in pairs – leaving wispy flecks of foam floating through the air.

Oh, it was stunning.

And then the weather decided we’d had our fair share of beautiful vistas for the day, and we should absolutely continue the tour (culminating in one of the best meals ever and a pre-meal beach drive. Yes DRIVE. So. Much. Fun). By the by, who is Herbellina, you ask? THIS. Is Herbellina:

Beatle, Beach

Isn’t she gorgeous? Whenever anyone wants to find me one of these for as little as Herbellina cost, feel free. Anyway, Claire, thank you so much for such a wonderful weekend. Not just the Causeway, but the chats and the meeting wonderful new people and drinking in ridiculously old pubs with saloon doors and the whiskey in beautiful inns with peat fires and amazing homemade risotto and pancakes and ferrying me everywhere and basically just being one of the best humans I’ve ever met. Also, getting you hooked on Episodes, yep yep! I can’t wait to come back!

See you soon, Belfast…(I hope!)


January 2, 2014

So in 2013 I said I would:
* Visit 3 places I’d never been before… check

Tintagel, Cornwall


* Knit something that wasn’t a scarf… sort of check

(baby steps on this one, I guess)

* Master Pastry … hmm

I’m much more confident making it now I’ve reminded myself how easy it is and simply not to panic when it comes to bringing it together and not overworking it…but when I saw there’s a zillion blocks of butter in breakfast pastry, I just couldn’t bring myself to make it!

The other goals were: * Run the London 10K (check!) * Read more Non-fiction (half check!) * Ride my board more (quarter check…) * Improve my photography (check! I hope, anyway) and * Keep blogging… definitely CHECK. Also in 2013 I took on new, challenging clients, took an opportunity that may lead to something potentially amazing in 2014 and came to realise something towards the end of the year that put me in a much more balanced and happy place work-wise. Oh and, my favourite person proposed, so now I have a legit reason to spend time on Pinterest… 😉

There’ll be bluuuebirrrds ooover the whiiiite cliffs of Doverrr…

July 29, 2013

So it turns out having lived a pebble’s throw from one of Britain’s best beaches (and a legit Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) spoils you for every beach within easy reach of London. What are all these stones about, South Shore of England?

Pah. Still, if anything, it aided our seeing Whitstable, Canterbury AND the cliffs/Castle of Dover in two days, because we weren’t tempted to stay and lay on the  beach for hours. Even with the beautiful weather. (Can you say one arm driving tan? Or rather, one arm driving freckles?)

Scuse all the portrait-style shots in this post: I only had the 50mm lens on most of the time as it was toooo hot to carry around a heavier lens/camera combo. Shame really, because there’s some really lovely buildings/streets in Canterbury and Whitstable and I didn’t even come close to capturing them at all. I fell in love with the above building though. 1778! And it had a gorgeous roof (can roofs be gorgeous?! This was. All rickety and probably awesome-looking in the rain. But I digress).

We didn’t get to see the entirety of Canterbury Cathedral as some lucky little things were graduating (…remember that? Sigh) and they’d closed a fair amount of it off. Still, pretty cool to wander around, and spotted the headless Thomas A Becket statue, which made more sense after visiting the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey, ransacked by Henry VIII, of course, because the man was a right…bleep. Anyway. If you’re ever in Canterbury, there’s the world’s most organised second-hand bookshop (definitely pop in there) and if you’re ever in the way of the Two Sawyers, their burgers are HUGE. And DELICIOUS. And there’s a really cute pub dog, and I’m all for pub dogs.

And finally, one from the phone of the glorious cliffs:

Such a stunning sight! We spent a lush hour or so lying on the clifftops, watching ferries coming in and out of the port. Oh and by the way, Dover Castle is immense. Really! Do the World War II tunnels if you’re there: well worth the bit of queuing. And did you know that Henry II ground up precious stones like lapis lazuli (which at the time was more expensive than gold) to make pigment for painting the main chamber of the castle?? Oh, and he sewed together something like 25 arctic squirrel pelts to make the guest duvet cover. Dude was like King Kanye of his day.

Welp, sadly that’s the end of the ‘holiday’ posts for a while and real life now beckons, but first, a delicious coffee with the boy’s crazy-looking Chemex…

Cornwall, camping and…something else alliterative

July 26, 2013

Welp. Have been back at work an entire week (just about) and the stored-up serotonin is already draining away. Shame, because Cornwall is gorgeous. Gorgeous, if terrifying to drive around – it has ALL THE HILLS and miles of ridiculously tiny roads. Seriously, I thought Northumberland was occasionally hairy, but Cornwall is something *else*

…But so, so worth it though. To say we were only there a couple of nights and one full day, we squeezed a lot into our mini-mini break, bombing around from our campsite on the cliffs above Cawsand, to Tintagel (birthplace of Arthurian legengs!), to Polperro and still had time for a dip in the (freezing!) sea at Trebarwith.

Tintagel is beaut: the ruins of a medieval castle perched on the top of a crazy-high cliff, plus the perfectly-preserved foundations of the town surrounding the castle, which is so amazing and neat that you can walk through the rooms and corridors of the houses and imagine their proportions perfectly.

Cornwall was a two-birds-with-one-stone trip for me…I’ve wanted to go for aaages; ever since I heard it was as beautiful as Northumberland but with swimable-temperatute seas. I’m going to dispute this, because WOW was it cold in that water, but still, a dip in the sea is a dip in the sea, and I haven’t been swimming in the waves since a trip to Cape Cod about 3 years ago now.

So yes, scratching THAT off the list was brilliant, but also: shooting during Golden Hour! I’ve wanted to for a while but not really had any good ‘subjects’, or really any time free in that particular part of the evening, but that sort of light is a total gift for a practicing photographer.

Check us out with our classy Morrisons bags and disposable BBQs. Yeah. We’re novice campers. Also, that’s not a brick under there, that was a wood block…one which I had to douse with water when I realised, uh, those flames weren’t that high when – OMGSETTINGTHECAMPSITEONFIRE! The boys were a bit upset for a moment when they thought I’d doused the sausages in water too, but no, no food was harmed in the saving of this brittle grass…the wood block was a goner, but the grass surprisingly fine! Lesson learned…

The campsite was also gorgeous, and, hilariously, filled to the brim with people that looked like the originators of all hipsters from Shoreditch. But beautiful views over the cliff down to the bays…and when the moon shone at night over that water – ! I wish I could have taken a photo that did it justice. I guess I’ll just have to go back soon and see…!

Nothing feels like…London Rain

March 11, 2013

There’s nothing more amusing than picking up your American former-College-roomie on her first trip to London and apologising for the dreadful weather, only to be told, “but this is exactly how I pictured it!”

London, your reputation precedes you.

I whisked her on a whistlestop visit of everywhere touristy I could possibly think of…with a few pit-stops at my favourite coffee shops, restaurants and markets. Thankfully the snow flurries held off until this morning, but it was bitterly cold as we trudged around the Tower after the Beefeater giving the tour.

This blog has lately been history trips interspersed with cookie recipes, so I’m not going to wax lyrical about the tales from the Tower…even though it’s absolutely my favourite thing in London.

Well. Maybe second favourite…

Ali admitted she could eat ice cream in a snow storm (or something), so I immediately dragged her up the Northern line to Camden for get Liquid Nitrogen ice cream at Chin Chin Labs. Yes it was amazing, yes it was Instagrammed, no, I don’t care that you’re too cool to Instagram your food.

And, apart from the moment where I thought I’d potentially broken all the toes in my left foot leaping down from the Trafalgar square lions, everything went smoothly and we had one amazing weekend. Also, Ali is now a fully-fledged Studio 60 fan, so, my work here is done.

Ali, come back soon, for I’m cracking open the smuggled Dunkin coffee and I need my cookie partner in crime to excuse the five I’m about to eat! Or maybe I should make the trip out to North Carolina…yes. Yes, that should happen.

I hope it’s soon!