Friday, 29 July 2016

Birthday Breakfast in the Sky

I love birthdays! It's up there as one of my favourite 'holidays' alongside Easter and Christmas. Granted it isn't really a holiday. But it's definitely a special day of celebration! Growing up my mum always made them into a big deal, with homemade cakes and presents on the end of our beds when we woke up that day. But living 200miles away, the celebrations this year would be up to me and my husband. Months before I started asking him to get ideas and offered to make suggestions. When I found out this initial plan fell through due to late booking, I didn't really know what to expect. I had made sure to book the Saturday off work and suggested that on the actual day we could just do 'low-key homey' things as we'd both be working anyway. 

Little did I know, that was not what he had planned. He wakes me up at 6am and when I start pulling on my ripped jeans, get told to dress fancier! We travel across to East London and struggle a bit with my old phone to navigate maps and make our way to the Heron Building. Arriving at the sky high, open 24/7 restaurant Duck & Waffle. Walking up a small carpeted entrance we were greeted by staff who directed us to a glass lift. We whizzed up to the top and were greeted by incredible views, floor to ceiling windows and beautiful interiors. 

We were initially seated towards the centre of the room, but managed to move to a window seat pretty quickly. We were served by a wonderful waiter who later sung Happy Birthday to me and served me a small 'cake' plate which Bernard had arranged prior to arrival. While the portion was smaller than he expected, it was delicious and the writing was lovely quality chocolate. The whole experience was an incredible start to my birthday. I felt so treated and so lucky. For our main meals, I ordered the English Cherries which included edible flowers and frozen yoghurt. Essentially dessert for breakfast, which is pretty perfect to me

We first heard about the location for a date idea around Valentines Day but were too late to book, so mentally filed it away for a future event. I feel so touched that my husband arranged this special birthday breakfast for me. The whole experience was dreamy, from my amazing husband, the food, to being essentially in the clouds. As cliche as it sounds the phrase 'on cloud nine' rang true. I didn't expect anything big or momentous that day. I honesty thought all we would do was watch a movie and order take out GBK (hello sweet potato fries and milkshakes). This guy never ceases to amaze and love me. I am so grateful that we get to do so many unique experiences together.  

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

From London Hostel to a London Flat!

When we got married London was the dream place to us to live, it would be fantastic for our careers and an incredible opportunity to be somewhere so culturally rich and bursting with energy. For a while we wrote it off as too expensive and just unlikely for at least a year, until last August/September things lined up and we took the plunge. Much earlier than we had expected! Bernard had been offered paid placements after much networking and hard work. What was uncertain has become a whole year of experience. Initially Bernard stayed on people's sofas for two months and we planned on moving into a flat share which then fell through THE DAY BEFORE we were due to move. So frustrated and appalled by the lack of accountability of the estate agents we urgently looked for an alternative. We had been living apart for two months (over 200miles), I had hired a van, a work transfer and had ended our rent contract back in the north. 

Through word of mouth we discovered a hostel company that was a strange cross between hostel and student accommodation. Housing travellers, career starters and OAPs. We signed up for a long term contract and paid a very small deposit. I had never heard of the area but oh my goodness it was amazing. Zone 2, very affluent, grand white London homes with columns. Families! I couldn't believe the community feel and the fact that families where living so central in London and it felt like such a suburb. We were five minutes walk away from the tube station and my work, meaning when I finished very late at night I could walk home and feel completely safe. 

However I wish the living conditions had been a bit better or at least more private. We paid (a lot) for a large double bedroom, shared toilet, shared shower/wet-room (down the corridor so a lot of walking around in a towel), no fridge, oven or general cooking facilities. We were provided one cooked meal a day in a communal canteen which I didn't particularly enjoy. It was often half a normal meal; say shepherds pie and half pasta. It didn't do much for nutrition and so we spent a lot of eating out or buying microwave meals. As we didn't have a fridge, we would store food outside our window which worked until it became summer. While it wasn't ideal we started a lovely tradition of eating M&S food every Sunday to make up for the rubbish the rest of the week. Going all out, spending way too much on one days worth of food but it was glorious. Developing a taste for fancy sausage rolls, beautiful desserts and decadent non-alcoholic drinks. 

Everyone who worked and lived there were lovely. There were so many people from Italy and Spain so it was strange when no one celebrated Pancake Day or Bank holidays. It was very noisy at times and I often ate in my room as I was so tired from work that I didn't want to have pleasantry conversations with strangers while I was trying to unwind and really just wanted to be in my PJs watching TV until my husband arrived home. Our room was also very dark being on basement level, they did offer to change us but I liked that there weren't many other rooms on our floor, making it feel more private and secluded. The whole thing was definitely an experience. They are currently doing up the rooms and bathrooms so I know they would be better but I really just wanted us to live somewhere ours, private and where we could cook! 

We didn't expected to move for a long time. Most flats I had seen cost between £1,500 - £2,000 a month not including council tax, bills, wifi, TV license, ettcccc. Something that we really couldn't and wouldn't want to afford right now. Need written references from employers and while we both have an income every month, we are usually interning or on temporary contracts. And ask for deposits that can be around £3,000 which of course we don't have and again wouldn't want to spend so much. We were ok in our little hostel and we didn't desperately need to move. We were so blessed to live in such an insane area, to be able to afford our rent, be so close to central London and simply be together. 

Unexpectedly a work colleague offered me a flat that his family manage. It had been available a few months before but someone beat us too it and had now become available again. It took us a few weeks to find time to check it out with us both working so much, that we thought it would be gone. But they had so kindly kept it for us and would advertise if we turned it down. We decided to go for it!! It was so scary and exciting. It took me a while to wrap my head around it. After NINE MONTHS of living in a hostel and our whole marriage of just renting rooms, we would have a little flat!!!! 

The transition was so smooth. We have a separate bedroom, living room, dinky kitchen and bathroom! We have to shout to hear each other!!! I can sit somewhere that is not a bed. Have beautiful sunlight stream in the windows. Use a microwave without awkward conversations with strangers. Unpack all our belongings! And get ready in the morning without disturbing each other's sleep. I cannot believe how wonderfully it has fallen into place! God is clearly helping us out. We have a beautiful home for a reasonable price and we live in London. While we're sadly not as close to a tube station and now live in Zone 3 in a more normal residential area, it's not really a sacrifice when put in perspective. We even have a sofa bed for people to come stay on. Before they were charged £10.50 a night and had a mattress on the floor next to our bed! Which made for some fun sleepovers :). 

I spent a good few hours, while my wonderful husband did so many house jobs, simply unpacking our books and arranging our shelves (we have shelves!!) It. Was. So. Much. Fun. We have a beautiful bowl to hold our keys, I own an actual vase and have peonies in the sunlight. Now to print out our wedding pictures to fill that frame sat on the window. We feel so grateful and happy for this step. It's a cute little flat and we are ecstatic. I cannot wait to have people over! 
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