London calling

Kensington Gardens, you are so pretty at 9am ❤

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I spent the day in London last Thursday, though my mission (to collect our Vietnamese visas) was over by 9.30am! Is it me, or are Embassies… strange?! It was like going to someone’s house. Albeit a very, very nice house – this is Kensington after all.

They also have a way of making you feel strangely criminal. I’m the same when I go through airport security. I know I don’t have anything I shouldn’t have about my person (or in my luggage), but I still worry someone’s about to swoop down on me! I was waiting in quiet terror in the queue, telling myself my passport is all as it should be, that we had paid everything we should have, that I had an email in my hand telling me our applications had been accepted…  I swear I didn’t breathe until the guy put our passports in my hand. Then spent the entire day on edge, walking around London with both our passports in my handbag….! Not like we’re off anywhere any time soon… (at the time of writing we’re nearly down to single figures… oh my GAAAD).

I’d originally planned to wander round all the free museums, maybe pop to Harrods for a nose, get the least-crazily-priced coffee I could in their cafe and ring my mum to tell her what I’d just paid for a cappuccino… I’m such a tourist. *sigh*… I love London. I know Kensington is like the nicest part of London possible, but still. I like Camden too! And it was a beautiful day – crisp, sunny and clear.

I ended up spending the day with my little bro instead. He’s in his final year at Trinity College of Music, and I’d always felt like a bit of a lousy big sister for never having visited him there. In my defence, I have a full time job and little disposable income… But excuses excuses. I’m going away for 3 months, and a day in the sunshine running around beautiful old buildings with my favourite youngest brother is something I’m so glad I could have.

After a takeaway brekkies of Starbucks bircher muesli ( – sidebar – OMG. Bircher muesli. Things like this are why I want to live in London. Can you imagine casually rustling up some bircher muesli for breakfast in Barry Island? No.) next to the Elfin Oak in aforementioned pretty gardens, I jumped back on the train to meet Robert in Greenwich. Another gloriously pretty part of London! Found the little townhouse of my dreams in an estate agent’s window en route… £1.4 mil. Casual. 

Trinity is in the Old Royal Naval College, which you would probably recognise from, well, a whole load of films. Thor, The King’s Speech, Les Mis, the latest Pirates of the Carribean – which they filmed when Rob was in first year – all there! And if you saw it…. Oh my goodness. It’s breathtaking. I wandered through the globe-flanked gates just open-mouthed, exclaiming, “This is where you go to uni!?”…

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Certainly beats Cardiff’s battered old Humanities building!

I got to indulge my inner tourist on the way too – I’d never seen the Cutty Sark before!

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GAH. I freaking love London. I want that on my doorstep.

Robert showed me the Painted Hall (just incredible) and the Chapel, which is where they filmed that famous scene in Four Weddings with Rowan Atkinson as the blundering bishop. Then we tripped up and down all these winding staircases, opening doors in walls, trying to find an empty practice room to show me the view over the river – sadly not to be, but everywhere you walk you get little bursts and snatches of music. Flute, piano, violin… Lovely. It’s like you’re in some musician’s dream.

By then I was absolutely starving, so Robert showed me a little more of Greenwich on our quest for some lunch. A particular fave of his was a hot chocolate shop called Black Vanilla… Now Robert is the most sugary-chocolatey-sickly-sweet-toothed person I know, but even to a slightly more savoury beast like myself, it sounded amazing. I’m totally becoming a regular once I buy my £1.4mill Greenwich townhouse. Yessir.

We plumped for smoked chicken noodle soup and katsu curry from Greenwich market. I handed over £5.50 for mine, wondering amusedly how much the same is going to cost me in Penang…!

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I met some of his friends too – thanking one of them, Becky, for the frankly dangerously good peanut-butter-chocolate-squares she’d made the day before, which Robert had fed me on the train! He’d heard from Mum that I was stressed, and I have to agree with his cure. Peanutty salty chocolatey YES-ness. So I knew I’d like this Becky character. It was funny how many people knew I was his sister without me being introduced… We’ve always been the most similar of us 4!

I’m going to gloss over the part where it took me 7 hours to get home… There was an accident on the M4 – but at least I’d bought dinner before I got on the Megabus! Finally got off at 11pm, sleep deprived thanks to some drama students who would NOT. STOP. SINGING. At what age will it start being OK for me to start telling off teenagers!? I think I need to wait until I no longer look the same age as them.

So yes, ignore that part. Sunshine, peanut butter, and a London day with my little brother. Not a bad thing at all.

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In our hearts

I live in Wales. And this is the only thing on the news, and everyone’s minds, today.

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After a 4 and a half week trial, and just 4 hours deliberation, they convicted Mark Bridger of the murder of April Jones yesterday. Some of the reports today are hard to read. It makes me wonder, are they allowed to reveal such harrowing things? Were these kind of details reported when I was younger, or was I just too young to be aware of them?

The court case appears to have been heavily hinged upon the testimony of a 7 year old girl, described as “April’s best friend”. I studied Forensic Linguistics for my MA, and interviewing children is something that I found particularly interesting. It is very, very difficult, and must be done with immense sensitivity – getting the child comfortable enough to tell you what happened, without leading them, without them telling you what they think you want to hear – because you want to make the grown ups happy, when you’re 7, don’t you? Little girls are thick as thieves at that age. You play together, make up worlds together, learn about life together. It has to be handed to the police at how well they dealt with that little girl, who had just lost her best friend.

The strength of Paul and Coral Jones, April’s parents, cannot be applauded enough. In their first interview, which I caught parts of last night, Paul unwaveringly says, “We’re a strong family”. What understatement, what dignity from a father who has suffered so much, and has to live with the ultimate disruption to his happy family life for the rest of his life.

Something that truly scares me is the idea of normality disrupted. It hovers around me like a shadow sometimes, sometimes closer, sometimes further away. I know it’s natural to worry about your family, but sometimes I can’t get past the idea that something, at some time, is going to happen to one of them. There’s a lot of us to worry about. People can tell you not to, that it’s so unlikely – but is it? You never really know, do you. These things do happen, and you can’t guarantee that they won’t happen to you.

I lost a close friend when I was a teenager, and I will never forget the world stopping as I got that phone call. I just went numb. I’d never really thought about what it was to lose someone before, but after that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Every instance between us, everything that could have been. And that background hum has been in my mind ever since.

I’ve written before about the low-level guilt I feel at living away from my family. Not enough to stop me, and move me home – everyone has to spread their wings. You can’t live your life protecting everyone, no matter how hard you try. But I am often tearful in the car back from a weekend at home – what if I miss something? What if they need me, and I’m not there? And that unspoken addition – what if something happens, and I don’t see them again.

My dad’s in hospital at the moment. We had a big family party at the weekend, and then on Wednesday he went in for tests. They don’t think it’s anything serious, but I still can’t really shake that sense of foreboding. I know he’ll be fine. (I wanted to add, “this time”). But what if….? And what if I’m not there?

I know I’m paranoid. In a way I’m writing this because I don’t think people are aware sometimes, of how much I worry about them. And I know all you can do is enjoy life, and enjoy each other. Keep them in your heart, even when you aren’t there in person. And try not to worry so much.

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Adventures in Baking: Part II

You may remember the baking challenge I was set last week – my dad’s 65th birthday cake! Well… what do you think?

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That’s a devil’s-food-chocolicious-crunchie-cake you’re looking at right there. Ta daa!

This was way better than the other chocolate cake recipe I’ve used (Soz, Mary Berry) – dense and really chocolate-y flavoured, without being too much like fudge cake. I smashed up loads of Crunchie bars and piled them on top as they’re Dad’s fave – I went for 4 bars but there was loads left! However he then got to have smashed up Crunchie pieces for breakfast (it was his birthday, who was going to stop him?!).

I can safely say it went down pretty well! We ended up with a bit of a dessert table going on – this cake, a trifle made by our neighbours, cheese and biscuits and a huge bowl of strawberries with cream. Yes. Please. But I can safely say this one was the fave – I was chuffed 🙂

The book (you can kind of see it in the background) is Mrs T’s, but I really ought to go through and photocopy loads of the recipes! Unless anyone wants to buy me a copy?…

There’s another little baking blog I’ve found called Sunday Baking that has given me my next baking challenge – Jaffa Cake Cupcakes! (I’ve just seen the baker behind it is from Dorset too – good girl!) Chocolate and orange is one of my fave combinations… Conveniently one of the boy’s too. No point in baking something that isn’t going to get eaten up, is there?

Mummy love

For everyone not in Holland (as Rob found out the hard way), today is Mother’s Day 🙂

We did a mini-Mother’s Day last weekend when Mum was here for the run. I gave her some daffodil tea lights from Laura Ashley, which I kind of hope she doesn’t actually light because they were super pretty… ! Just had a lovely long chat with her (and various other family members who happened to walk into the kitchen while I was on the phone). The boys didn’t forget – I did remind them twice – and all managed to get her the exact same chocolates without conferring. Great minds!

My mum is the best. I know everyone’s mum is the best, but I would honestly be lost without my Mummy T. She is absolutely always there for me, and as I’ve got older I like that I look after her a little bit too. She’s bloody hilarious as well, that helps.

As I get older, and have to start dealing with things like credit cards,and how on earth mortgages work, she’s still the only person I want to ask for advice. Even when I don’t even know what’s wrong she knows just what to say. If I can be a fraction of as good a mother, I’ll be happy!

Happy Mother’s Day Mrs T, you little legend 🙂

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I’ve spent this weekend with two of my besties, planning weddings, eating crisps, drinking cocktails, drinking tea… perfect stuff. And – this was the last weekend I have to spend sans Rob! I’m in Holland next weekend, and the one after that he comes home.

Now, is there such a thing as a “Welcome Home” cake?….

Thoughts of home

Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re walking along, and you just feel kind of… small? And far away? Not in a sad way, more in a factual, recognition way.

I was walking back from the gym earlier and had one of those moments. The weather’s meant to get really nasty overnight, snow and hail and ice and general eurgh-why-would-you-do-this-to-my-hair type weather, so I’d left Mum a message saying I’d keep an eye on the trains tomorrow, in case any delays get announced. I’m going back for the weekend, just to decorate the tree and things, but I reckon the weather’s going to throw some sleety spanners in the works. I was thinking about how Mum will probably start worrying now, about ‘Sally in Cardiff’, and how I don’t live at home any more. At all. I’ve been in Cardiff for years.

I know this is all obvious stuff. But I was just thinking about what it’s like for families once they get spread out round the country. Thinking of us Taylors as little dots on a map. It really is this kind of time of year that brings people back together.

Thinking about my housemates as I rounded the corner to ours, I realised I’m kind of the one most settled here. I know Penny’s been here longer than me, and has at least another year left of her PhD, and Emily has a job here too, though I don’t know how long she’s planning to do it for, but I’m here for the forseeable, in comparison. Even my boyfriend, my real link to Cardiff, will be heading back up North come the summer.  I’m really tied in. Despite the fact that I’m not from here, my family don’t live here, a lot of my friends don’t live here…  This is my fifth year now; if it gets to seven I’ll have lived here for as long as I was at secondary school!

I’m so glad I got a job here, though. Cardiff may not be my ‘home’ but I know it here, I like it here. I was at uni here, I grew up here, in a way. It’s a home from. I can’t imagine having moved home after uni, then having got a job on the other side of the country and having to just move. Now that’s uprooting. They might not go as deep as the ones that take me back to Bournemouth, but here I’ve got roots.

I guess it just comes down to the difference between where you live, and where you consider your home. Bournemouth’s always going to be home; you ‘go home’ don’t you, back from wherever you’ve flown the nest to.

I guess this is what it’s like when you finally really are a ‘young professional’, and Christmas is the time you get to fly back!