Black socks 

This does not explain the mystery of the universe that loses individual socks some place between the laundry basket and the washing line. I have heard about this strange phenomenon, but have no first hand experience. Well, I do if you include the time when I was a teenager and it was apparently one of my socks that got stuck somewhere in the washing machine gubbins, breaking it in the process. I did not do this deliberately; thankfully, my mum will not read this so will not get another chance to revisit that story and recall how much the callout cost.

This is about matching up socks, all black of course, but from different manufacturers so slightly different. They sort of look alike, but they are not. Some have got a slightly cashmere feel to them, fake cashmere though, and others feel finer, more cotton-like, although I am sure they contain no cotton.

Some do have quite distinctive tops, maybe a bit of internal stretch stitching that let you match them up. At least with those ones, you can get them the right way out. Most just look the same either side, and it is impossible to decide whether they are the right way round or inside out. The only clue is the toe seam, and short of getting a magnifying glass out (now there’s an idea), it is difficult to find the more pronounced side of the seam which should be inside.

It is a Herculean task whether the socks are wet or dry. Attempts to sort them when wet have been futile as I have forgotten that they have been sorted previously, and pile them all up together for a second sorting.

Should I start to buy socks in different colours for easy matching and to save this post-laundry waste of time? But I don’t want grey socks or navy socks. I only like black socks. Black knee length socks that are becoming more difficult to source as there is a retail movement towards short socks. John Lewis is currently the preferred supplier as M&S don’t like long black socks any more, Primani’s long black socks fall down and Boots’ long bamboo socks are not exactly what I call decent quality.

For the amount of time wasted trying to play The Krypton Factor sock matching game, you’d think there were twenty pairs to sort. I am not given to exaggeration, but these four pairs of socks drive me to distraction. I sometimes take a little break half way through to maintain my sock sanity.


Sometimes you just need daffodils

It is January. Spring feels distant. I need more daylight. I need sunshine. I need warmth. I am not a winter person, and I want to mispunctuate the first part of this sentence with inappropriately multiple full stops.

Waitrose to the rescue. British Crown Daffodils. Two bunches. A couple of hours in a vase and these green sticks will be opening up their yellow frills.

And I wait. And I wait. They do not play ball. The next day I move them upstairs from the basement kitchen towards extra light to see if that helps them along. This is slow work. Usually, daffodils open within several hours of bringing them home. A few are playing ball, but this is not daffodil cheer.

A friend who works in the bulbfield industry in Holland suggests that they are forced, and that they will open. Too bloody right or Mr Waitrose will be getting a return visit. They are not doing what was expected of them.

And then, today, Baglady has daffodils. Yellow. Frilly. Playful. Vibrant. Eccentric. Dancing. Bright. Spring.

And it feels as if the days may lengthen, that the winter may lift, and that the sun may provide some warmth.

A very surreal day or Baglady gets DVT

My ankle had been painful a few days earlier, feeling like a fracture (and I’ve had my fair share of ankle fractures), but an x-ray was fine. Yet still it hurt. And then it started swelling. And then it got hot. Lucky me, I had an orthopaedic appointment the morning I noticed the heat. An ankle surgeon too.

I don’t know why I thought DVT. I had not consulted Dr Google. I do take long flights though and like to think I am a bit DVT savvy since this condition can develop after flights. And I was due to take a long haul flight a day after the hospital appointment. Maybe the planets were just aligned, and it was my lucky day.

So, I mention the new problem, get my ankle examined, and say I’m just a bit concerned about DVT. I don’t want to be a drama queen nor try and be a know all, but I just know instinctively that something is wrong. The ankle surgeon decides to get an immediate ultrasound. Yep. DVT. Deep vein thrombosis. It must be relatively new because I’d had an MRI scan just four weeks earlier.

And, so, a day of excellent treatment at the ambulatory emergency care unit at UCLH began. Who knew these units even existed? They do quick turnaround tests, have a clinical team that can begin treatment immediately, and, hopefully, avoid hospital admission for more tests. Blood tests, x-rays, questions, calm human practitioners, lovely nurses and kind reception staff. It’s the countdown to Christmas and there are decorations in the reception area, and some music playing, quite a few cheesy Christmas songs in the mix. There’s tea and coffee. It’s a warm and friendly environment. I am trying to put back a hair appointment as I know I shan’t get there in time. Hair appointments in December are like gold dust – I’m keeping my hairdresser informed, she’s meanwhile trying to see if anyone later can come in earlier to give me some more time to get there. Reception are asking about the hair appointment, and whether I’ve managed to get it put back.

I am sensible enough to know that flying and DVT may not go well together. The ultrasound doctor in the morning had said it may be down to the insurers. I had already spoken to them – they would cover me according to the medical advice. If I was told that it was okay to go, the insurers would cover anything related that arose during the trip. If I was told not to go, they would cover cancellation costs less the policy excess. I presume that if advised not to travel, and if that advice was ignored, that the insurers would be fully entitled to laugh in the face of any claim.

I am told in no uncertain terms by the consultant that I cannot fly the following day. I am not allowed to fly. The day is so surreal that it feels quite normal to be told that I can’t fly to India for my Christmas holiday. The consultant carefully explains the meds that will be prescribed, side effects, a new world that involves anticoagulant clinics and referrals to haematologists. The consultant allows me plenty of time to take it all in and to ask questions that she has, no doubt, heard a hundred times before, but she answers them as if I’m the first to have asked.

I’m late for the hair appointment. Damn. I pick up the meds from the hospital pharmacy and also become the proud owner of a patient alert card to keep in my purse. I go back to ambulatory emergency care to pick up the discharge letter. The lovely reception staff sympathise that I’ve missed my hair appointment. I thank them. They understand how valuable a December hair appointment is. They commiserate about the holiday too.

I head off to the tube, pleased to be going home after quite a day, one that I don’t want to repeat. I’d asked in jest whether I could use the tube, just in case it too was forbidden transport. It’s allowed.

On the Hammersmith and City Line home, I notice the Three Wise Dogs in my carriage. I love dogs. I have had a bad, strange, scary, surreal day so seeing these dogs makes me feel so much better. Well, actually, everybody I came into contact with that day has worked together towards making me better and ensuring I stay that way.

So what if bagladytravels is not travelling as planned? The beach will still be there when I’m better. And my suitcase is already packed, ready to go. I am invited to a new year party, and then invited to a Christmas lunch by very special friends.

But I am in desperate, desperate need of that missed haircut. I am having a seriously bad hair day. I can live with DVT, but I’m not sure that I can live without my hairdresser.

Family treasures from the attic

Mum found this sketch that my dad did of me, probably about 53 years ago. Boy, I had a fat face.

Mum didn’t get off too lightly either: there’s one of her too. That hair did not look like a good cut, and her nose looks a bit wonky.

My dad was so talented, and took my art criticism well too!

A bit of South Bombay; shopping opportunities, roaming and a bite to eat

One of my friends said that her sister’s family would be staying at the Taj Mahal Palace just before Christmas. I have a rage of envy, having stayed there previously, more so because I am missing out Bombay this year, keeping it simple with three weeks on the beach in Goa. I should not be envious.

So, I have quelled the envy and passed on a few tips that I hope may assist them or you. It’s a bit random, pulled from memory, no particular order, but nowhere is more than ten minutes from The Taj.

Almost on the doorstep from the Taj Mahal Palace –

●Theobroma Patisserie (on Colaba Causeway, South of police station, next to Parsi Colony) – amazing coffee and cakes, some of the best people spotting, all the rich Parsis meet for coffee and gossip here. The coffee is great, and the cashew topped Bircher muesli is worth a mention. I feel like Damon Runyon listening to the gossip about people I’ll never meet. I have also been here when the hunkiest naval officer officer in the world stepped in for coffee. Swoon. Be envious.

●Bombay Dyeing on Colaba Causeway. Their white hotel quality towels are the best in the world. You can buy an extra suitcase at the Samsonite shop a few doors away!

●Forest Essentials fragrances and skincare, all properly ayuvedic. Oudh & green tea spray lasts all day. Lemongrass or rose roomsprays are brilliant. Part owned by Esteep Lauder group now, apparently opening in London soon (but expect Jo Malone prices here). They have a shop airside at international departures, but stock there is hit and miss – check carefully as I once got back to London to find that the Oudh and green tea body spray was actually bath foam. I did not want bath foam. The rose room spray smells like Turkish delight….

●Good Earth opposite South end of Taj Mahal Palace. This shop is, in my view, overpriced but stocks nice home knick knacks. If you want to buy a cushion or a quilt, they have a machine that sucks all the air out for easy packing.

●Bombay Electric stocks a beautiful collection of overpriced shirts, bags and costume jewellery plus electro-plated tiffins at about £200 each! Good to look, lovely staff, a nice little courtyard garden too. It’s next door to Good Earth.

●There is a lampshade maker in Reay House, next to Good Earth/Bombay Electric. These are high end lampshade weavers. You do not know how much you want one of these, or all of these, until you see them, and watch them being made……

●Drop into the Methodist Church on Colaba Causeway to see the plaque to the Rev Clutterbuck, and his sad demise after surviving Bombay pastoral service for several years. Shipwrecked and drowned on the SS Stella. This is history and reflection in action. To think that he lived and worked in South Bombay in the days when that land was malarial, not to mention all manner of other tropical diseases and illnesses in the days before the discovery of antibiotics. By the way, I am not in the slightest bit religious, but love this little church.

●If you want a Parsi cafe on Colaba Causeway, go for Mondys (think the full name is Mondegars). Personally, I avoid Leopolds which is full of backpackers and young Indian guys drinking huge pitchers of draft lager. I have had a late evening in Mondys that involved friends who work or had worked in Bombay – it was like something out of Shantaram, lost and found wallets, job envy, lots of beer (not me – they had been drinking since 2pm) and one of the party falling out of the bar, breaking his nose etc and being bundled off to private Breach Candy Hospital. One of my friends and I then went back to my ocean facing balcony room at the Taj Mahal Palace to drink gin for the rest of the night….

Britannia & Co is worth a walk up to for lunch – the Ballard Estate upon which it is sited is about ten minutes walk, plus the very European styled estate provides great photo opportunities. I think Britannia & Co must have been part of the inspiration for the Dishoom chain in London. It is very characterful, even though the Parsi food was a bit too meaty for me to have too much choice. Try a dish with barberries – these are an Iranian delicacy, but tasted a bit like cranberries to my unrefined palate.

●A swift stroll up to Kala Goda will take ten minutes, more if the traffic is really busy and you are not so brave at crossing the road. It is full of little galleries and coffee shops. I like Artisans Gallery because it focuses on folkloric and traditional craft art from India, and it’s friendly and welcoming. Filter Gallery is good for prints and tasteful modern contemporary Indian gifts. Kala Goda is also the home of Trishna, a Bombay restaurant institution, well worth an evening. Do book though.

●And, if you’re staying at the Taj, play my favourite game which involves sitting in the lobby and looking at all the Chanel bags that other guests are carrying. Believe me when I say that you don’t get the same quantity of Chanel handbags at the Four Seasons nor at the Oberoi. This is Chanel country.

●Don’t miss out on the tour of the Taj either: this is for guests only and takes place early evening. It was quite fascinating and a surprising highlight of the stay there.

Early evening time out in Bangkok, November 2016 (and June 2017)

Visiting Bangkok in November, it’s cooler than the usual summer weather highs, definitely a weaker winter sun. It’s time to join the city folk for a bit of late afternoon time out in Benchasiri Park, a complete oasis off the sometimes manic Sukhumvit Road. Green, lush green, manicured and obviously much loved by all the people enjoying its restorative calm. Toddlers, weary looking executive types, teenagers skipping and using the outdoor gym equipment, a  cluster  of smartly uniformed  school children welded to their phones, a cat, squirrels chasing one another up palm trees, some swings, a lake, joggers. The smaller kids are all playing quietly, which only becomes obvious when one toddler has a tantrum.

Every city needs green space to let us escape, even if just for ten minutes. A calm prevails, people smile at one another in a way that just doesn’t happen in a mall, along a pavement, waiting for the BTS sky train etc. Those ten minutes in a nice green city probably reduce your city blood pressure too. 

And, lucky enough to have another holiday to Bangkok six months later, we fight our way to Benchasiri Park during the late morning. Fighting our way with flu – it has knocked us for six, and the walk there was a bit of an effort, even though we were staying only a few sois away. As an incentive, the sun is stronger and hotter than November.

We are approached by some teenage schoolboys pointing their phones in our directions, as if they are wanting us to be their selfie friends. No thank you to that. 

I sit it out on a park bench as walking around the lake is really too much for my flu raddled body. My mum doesn’t surrender though and goes off, looking at all the park sculptures on her way.

As we are about to leave, two teenage schoolgirls approach and ask whether I will answer some questions for their school project about visitors to their city. They are superpolite and their spoken English is top notch – they ask whether it is okay to record the interview. Yes, and I answer away; randomly, they have found someone who has visited their city frequently and knows a fair bit about the country. They have hit school project gold! Girls one, boys zero. 

Archway revisited, aka a trip down Memory Lane

A sunny afternoon, mid-May, and a meet up with some friends for an afternoon drink in a pub off Holloway Road. I remember the days when most pubs off, and on, the Holloway Road were fairly no go pubs. But times change and areas change.

Archway tube station seems very much the same, but there’s a huge change outside the station. Where has the Archway roundabout gone? A traffic flashpoint. I have nostalgic memories of city pollution and traffic jams there, a pub in the centre of the roundabout: now, who would want to go to a pub in the middle of a traffic roundabout? But the roundabout has gone and it all looks a bit fancy now. The old DSS block has become a rather swanky block of flats. A corner pub opposite is now a Starbucks. This is not the Archway I know.

My parents lived in Highgate so the Archway roundabout was an almost daily part of my life. I used to get on the tube at Archway as it was cheaper than getting on at Highgate. I despised Archway as it was grotty. I hated the roundabout and I hated having to use the underpass under the roundabout.

But it looked rather magnificent, poshed up and bathed in early summer weekend sunshine. I felt a pang for days past, the days of being in my late teens and twenties. A very different time. These days can never be recreated, but I like to think they were formative and that I still gain by them.

I walked down Holloway Road, well stomped in previous years, and by my mum and dad too. The top of Holloway Road is still a bit hit and miss – small cafes and takeaways, Poundland, Tesco Metro, Sainsbury Local, tarted up pubs that look a bit more welcoming than they did all those years ago. The pie and mash shop, Manzies, is long gone – I never went in there, but used to go past on the bus and remember the woman who worked there, dyed bold bright red hair, almost the image of Rita Webb.

The Church, St John’s, looked magnificent, even to this atheist. An open blue sky, emerald green trees and the Church tower. A rural aspect of the Holloway Road, probably unappreciated by those who walk by daily. I used to be see the Church tower from the bedroom window of my flat, and could hear the clock chiming. So, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk along the road where I lived in about 1986 or 1987, then a brand new one bedroom flat. The road itself had been a bit grotty, fairly run down small Victorian houses. It was not a posh road then, and I was quite pleased to see that it is still definitely not a posh road now, even though the houses there would probably sell for much more than my house in another part of London.

Nostalgia over, and it was time to meet up with the friends at a very nice pub, lots of tables outside to allow us to combine gin with sunshine, then to head to another pub for a late Sunday lunch.

The Archway experience ends with prosecco and ice cream in a friend’s garden, just by the side of St John’s Church. I hear the clock chime. Thirty years vanish and, like the ice cream, melt away.

Power out in Patnem

A power cut is a great leveller here. Whether you are staying in a basic beach hut, think shed, or a boutique chichi beach hut, you get plunged into equal darkness, becoming a musical statue. The maglite or your phone may be nearby, but try finding either in pitch black.

You can hear a collective “ooh” from the diners at the beachfront restaurant as the power fails and the candles on the table come into their own, providing just enough light. 

The kitchen is well used to cooking in the absence of electricity.  The lit tandoor is fuelled by wood. The cooking rings are powered by bottled gas. 

But you can’t get a strawberry daiquiri when there’s no power as those get whipped up in the bar equivalent of a nutribullet. And they need a power source.

Sitting on the balcony, mug of tea, reading the kindle, I carry on as normal. The kindle screen is great in pitch black. Ironically, I am reading Americanah and am on a page towards the end of the book where the protagonist talks about power cuts and non functioning back-up generators in her block in Lagos. I know where the maglite is, but I have no need to use it. I have no need for my own mini back up solution. I am enjoying the dark, even if punctured by the kindle light spill.

Pitch black above softens slightly and after a few minutes of eye adjustment, the faint outline of palm fronds can be detected against the black sky. And there is one star or planet visible. Could it be Venus, apparently visible in the last few days? I will never know.

The waves sound louder as they hit the shore. 

Five minutes or so later and the power is restored. 

Damn. I quite liked the dark. 

And, there’s another one early next evening. Experience tells me to take a shower while it’s still light as there is some natural light spill into the bathroom. No hair straightening for my frightful beach hair. But clean, I head to the bar for a strawberry daiquiri sundowner just as the sun reaches its last few minutes.

Damn and double damn. No power. No strawberry daiquiris: a sundowner pot of tea it must be.