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.

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.

The Hell journey to reach Beach Paradise

It starts off so easily and optimistically. The painful dental infection has been checked, antibiotics prescribed and the dentist is not concerned about my impending air travel.  Friends and colleagues who claim better knowledge of such things  than any dentist have been telling me that my face will all but explode through pain as the cabin pressure kicks in.

A very quick minicab journey to my very local London City Airport and I should be airborne 90 minutes after leaving the house.

And we would have been airborne had not the runway lights failed, causing a 40 minute delay on  board. It is just one  of the vicissitudes of travel.

Do I see my house as we ascend steeply, elevating, over East London? Maybe, maybe not. The view is cool though, snippets of East London and the Thames as we head towards Southend.

There is plenty of time still to make the next flight at Frankfurt, even though the distance from.the city fleet aircraft terminal is 1.5Km to reach Gate C in the other terminal. Ground services have failed to arrange my  airport  assistance and the staff at Frankfurt International Airport wearing the red “May I help you?” badges fail. Curses on you. I do not know the collective noun for a grinch, but you are all worthy of the title.

Finally, at Gate C, apologies all round and the final short part of the transfer is in a golf cart. Bag Lady expects serious pain to be exacerbated during the flight as a result of this fail.  Frankfurt International will never be a travel option again. The return trip is via Munich, a modern compact airport.

But Lufthansa on board makes up for the Frankfurt Airport nonsense. Their aircrew is always professional, courteous and very human. And all in all, quite a smooth  flight, with a movie diversion from Absolutely Fabulous, total cheese but perfect in-flight entertainment with lots of celebrity cameos, product placement  (how much did Anya Hindmarch  pay for Eddie to carry all those handbags?) and a few laugh out loud moments. 

Masala tea is a post-lunch option, a nice nod from the airline to the flight destination. 


Arrivals duty free reminds us of the destination just in case long flights and time travel have caused memory lapses..

There is then another flight to catch, then a 90km taxi journey. Then a few hours dozing on a sun lounger before sunset strawberry daiquiris 

and then more strawberry daiquiris at dinner in the next village..

Ad  then, a good night’s sleep for Christmas day on the beach

Christmas pudding jam

This evening’s invention was Christmas pudding jam. Well, it’s that time of year, the season to be jolly etc.

As usual, there was no recipe, no weighing of ingredients, just some guesswork and instinct. 

Chopped up plums cooked gently with a bit of water until they went mushy.

Then, some granulated sugar stirred in, a large handful of mixed dried fruit thrown in for good measure.

 Boil. Furiously. It will begin to go jammy. Remove from the heat and add a few spoonfuls of rum.

Pour into scrupulously clean and dry jars. seal the lids tightly. 

Clean away the splatters from the hob and surroundings, lick the spoon – yummy – and load up the dishwasher..Consider labels, maybe a Christmassy bow too. 

Resist the urge to drink the rum, and return it to the larder.

Windfall fig jam

I am getting fairly good at this jam making malarkey. Small batches though as who wants ten jars of jam? 

This evening’s quick two jars, more than I was expecting, involved some overhanging figs, heavily laden with fruit. It astonished me that no one had already picked them: to be fair, I only noticed them as I almost slipped on a windfall. The windfall reminded me of a windfall picked off the roadside in Naxos about ten years  – I can almost taste it now, sun ripened and warm from the sunshine. However, I was not going to try an urban windfall on a dark pavement in East London. The dogs had possibly got there first. But I looked up and saw that the overhanging branches were fairly laden for November.

So, tonight involved no recipe. I cooked the chopped figs with a bit of water, then got the potato masher out to break down the skin. I added some chopped walnuts, only a few as that was all I had, finished off some leftover flaked almonds and added as little sugar as I could get away with. I had to add a bit more as it was never going to turn to jam otherwise.

So, a good old stir with a long handled wooden jam spoon, intense heat to bring it to a really high temperature. I used a wok rather than the preserving pan as this was a fairly small amount. A handful of dried cranberries at the end for no other reason than I had noticed them in the larder.

Two jars of rather nice fig jam. And I scraped the wok before it went into the dishwasher.

Quince paste time of year, in a reasonably adjusted sort of way

Just picked ten minutes ago. Now for some sugar shopping. This will be the first time I have attempted reasonably adjusted quince paste – I will have to sit down to do the pressing through the mesh bit. Let’s see if it’s as good as usual, after a two year gap.