On Friendship

Friendships, like any kind of love, I suppose, strike when you don’t expect them. It can be a bolt from the blue, or a realisation that friendship has snuck up on you unawares.

Recently, I had had an impromptu dinner out with two girlfriends who I count as relatively new friends. I ran into them at what I thought was the end of my evening out, and they invited me to join them for a drink. Have you ever felt stupidly touched at the acceptance of others? I was that evening.

So we went and ate burgers, and each of us had one sensible drink, as we were all driving, and we talked A LOT, or at least I felt like I talked A LOT, and it was about therapy, and new jobs, and men, and relationship problems, and men, and clothes, and men, and finding your place in life, and self confidence, and the artistic temperament, and men… and did I mention men?

So apart from eating a very delicious burger, and drinking a sensible glass of wine, it was a fruitful evening, because in it I learnt how Music Girl gets people to be friends with her! I need to learn this trick! Firstly she described how she said to Oxford Classicist “Ilikeyourskirtweshouldbefriends” after a few weeks of sussing her out in the office and realising that, indeed, she was someone who she could spend time with.
Then we reminisced, with the sweet nostalgia of whole months past, on how she accosted me in the ladies loos by circling her hand over my left one, saying “What is this? We NEED to go out for gin and tonics!” And that, dear readers, is how I ended up passing out after drinking many many cocktails, on my own landing, and giving myself a black eye… *sorrynotsorry*

My oldest friends are still there through sheer tenacity, I suspect. There are the friends you don’t speak with for years then randomly WhatsApp them and it’s as if you were never apart. I still miss my best friend from when I was eighteen, she was so dear to me and if she didn’t live so far away, I’d get back in touch but… maybe it’s better in the past. Aussie Nicole is a best friend across the time zones; you always need someone who’s awake when you should be asleep but can’t, because your baby is awake, or you’re stressed about work, or have stayed awake for whatever reason. A lot of my friends are at work – let’s face it, colleagues often see you more and know more about you than your spouse. There’s that friend you never see, the friend you always see… don’t get me started on frenemies…

Sometimes all it takes is one sentence, one joke, and you know, this person is going to be your friend. Or it can be the slow burn. But you never know who is going to be the person who gets you through a tough time, who is going to be the person you can’t wait to tell about x, complain about y. Some friends are fair weather friends, others are best in a crisis. Some make you laugh until you cry, others make you cry until you laugh!

When the days are long but the years are short, you realise you’ve been friends with someone for over a decade. How did that happen? Or you can have known someone for a year, and they have an impact on your life in a way you never could have imagined, in your wildest dreams.

Occupational Therapy

When I graduated from university, I worked in the NHS for a year, part time, as a receptionist in an Occupational Therapy department. I no doubt got the gig because of my touch typing skills (thank you Legally Blonde), as I was not at the sharp end of critical services but spent a lot of my time typing up reports about elderly people who had broken their hips going home with raised toilet seats and being tested on their ability to make a cup of tea. I am being a bit flippant – for the people who were desperate to be allowed to go home, making that cup of tea was a life-chances level assessment. I’ve admired Occupational Therapists ever since – it’s not the most glamorous of jobs, but it makes a difference. In its truest form, it is all about helping people to actually live their lives.

I’m currently experiencing all kinds of therapy. Through my work I’ve been lucky enough to encounter Time to Change, and I think it’s really important to remove the stigma around mental health, so I have zero shame in admitting that I currently see a psychotherapist regularly. Luckily for me I also a psychotherapist friend, who was able to persuade me to stick with it after the first six session. In fact, I really enjoy my counselling sessions now, although enjoy is probably a strange word for something which often leaves me feeling absolutely wrung out, and I judge the impact of the sessions on the number of tissues used. But I feel the benefit. It was a conversation with my therapist that brought about “write more, live more” as one of my edicts for life.

Which brings me to writing as therapy – yes, there’s often a cathartic element to writing. A friend asked me if this blog was just therapy – well, I’m not confessing all my secrets here… but I know that writing takes me to a place in my head that is a good place to be. There’s been research on it – the state of Flow. I love it when I get there, and writing is the way I’m able to snap in and out of it.

Retail therapy is one of my weaknesses, and has a downside, which is the spending of money – my lipstick collection confirms this economic theory. I’ve always been a keen online window shopper, which has nearly all of the thrill of shopping without the costs incurred. Ever loaded up an online shopping basket with all the things you fancy and watched the total get scarily high? Just make sure you don’t have one-click settings enabled…

This week I experienced a bit of genuine Occupational Therapy! One of my friends is preparing to live abroad with her family for a number of years, only two years after moving to her forever home. I went round to offer help (and also wine and profiteroles), as she has a toddler and a five month old, and also a dog! And she is leaving an idyllic country cottage, that is currently surrounded by daffodils and snowdrops. After some chat and some dinner, and thoroughly failing to console the baby who didn’t enjoy my cuddles, I was beginning to feel that I was there under false pretences. “What am I actually going to do to help?” I asked… and I was led to two cupboards of plates and glasses and a very large roll of bubble wrap.

It turns out that when you’re not packing up your own life to a deadline, bubble wrapping and packing is surprisingly relaxing. Apart from being worried I would end up breaking someone else’s precious wedding champagne saucers, it was a deeply satisfying activity. I’ve read that one of the best ways to engage with teenagers (and anyone reluctant to talk) is to do an activity side-by-side, and I’ve always found walking and talking to be a good way to have a conversation. We talked, while I wrapped, and the baby was fed and snuggled, and before I knew it, there were three boxes full of wrapped breakables, and I felt immensely satisfied. Completing a task and helping others – very Gretchen Rubin style ways to feel at peace with yourself, but it certainly worked for me.

Spring is here

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin

Did you smell it in the air? I did. Last week, walking through town with a friend, we both agreed, we could smell Spring coming. A gust of fragrant growth hit us in the still-light early evening, and then as we walked through one of the colleges we admired the swathes of crocuses under budding trees.

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For me, the calendar year doesn’t adequately describe the rhythm of my life. Even when I wasn’t in education or working in education, September was the new year for me. That sense of preparedness and organisation, laying down stores, anticipating a bit of downtime as the days get shorter. And yes, stationery and boots. But when the nights draw in, I can’t help but feel that I’m just girding my loins, getting ready to face the onslaught of winter and darkness. I don’t long for the dark days. I know that some people love Autumn and Winter, and I do understand why. A chance to go into hibernation, the cosiness, stodge and red wine, fires, Christmas, carols, lights, candles in the darkness. I like the tang of bonfire in the air as much as anyone else. But for me, December, January and February are something to be endured. Not to be glass half-full, but I think of cold commutes, leaving for work in the dark and getting home in the dark, days when you’re stuck inside and there’s nowhere to take the children for fresh air because it’s freezing and tipping it down. Wishing for snow, because it’s so pretty, but then the snow comes and it’s a national emergency, the stress and pressure of Christmas obligations, no Bank Holidays, dry overheating in public places… the list goes on.

And then… Spring! Sweet, sweet relief. The pleasure of seeing the bulbs I planted when we moved in burst forth once more, the blossom on the trees, the joy of sending the children out into the garden for a while to play, taking a walk outside and not needing a hat, scarf, gloves, the day you jettison your coat for a jacket. Suddenly more seems possible. Getting home in the daylight dampens the urge to change into pyjamas quite so immediately. Inspired by the thought that you might need to lose the winter insulation, that protective jumpers will soon be too warm, ensures that the consumption of stodgy sustenance decreases. The sound of the first lawnmower of the season, the smell of the first grass cuttings, the smoky tang in the air of the first dry bonfire of the year when the dampness subsides. And then Easter – a four day Bank Holiday weekend! Even better than Christmas!

As I leave for work in the mornings in the light, I breathe more deeply, lift my face to the sun, smell the potential in the air.

The dark days are over. Begin afresh.

Today I’m wearing… Animal Print!

Today’s outfit is brought to you rather later in the day than usual, courtesy of the nightmare that is childcare arrangements!

My cat print dress is a firm favourite, and I feel a great alternative to straightforward leopardprint.  Every time I wear it I feel particularly fierce!  Not sure why it’s such a failsafe –   Is it the way the studded belt adds structure to a comfy pull on shift?  Is it the combination of black and purple?  Is it the fact it layers up so well with my thin thermal tee, and thick black tights?  Perhaps, but it does equally as well unlayered in the summer months, with sandals.  Or is it simply that you can’t beat a gorgeous graphic?  I mean, who doesn’t love big cats?  

This was purchased in the M&S sale, circa 2013.  It’s from their Limited Collection label, which I really like, as it’s a bit more fashion forward, and fast changing (hence being limited, I suppose).  

A confession: This dress is shorter than I remembered.  I experienced what I like to think of as a bad case of “Meeting Thigh” today, when in a ‘workshop’ meeting I looked down and realised I was revealing a much greater expanse of upper leg than I felt entirely comfortable with.  Luckily, thick black tights saved my modesty!

Picture by one of my colleagues, who was an excellent impromptu photographer! 

Today I’m wearing… going out clothes at work

So the other week I gatecrashed someone’s leaving do who I didn’t know.  Basically I was at one set of leaving drinks, and Welsh friend was at another at a pub a couple of doors down, and we wanted to get together.  So I slipped away joined in their little event, far more sedate than the one I was leaving, which suited me fine, as I had a kind ‘two drinks max and I’m outta here’ feeling.

The most hilarious part of the evening was when I caught sight of the leaver, who I had never met before, a young woman (well, younger than me and Cerys) who was dressed up like she was starring in the 90s film The Craft.  Short skirt, cropped top, fishnets, heels and *a choker*.  She was definitely “going on” somewhere once the slightly more mature members of the party finished drinking their sensible sized glasses of Sauv Blanc and departed.  But she was so at odds with her surroundings and company that I couldn’t help but widen my eyes at Cerys who told me “she’s been wearing that since 8am this morning.”

Well, frankly, if I had my time again I’d have worn a lot more fabulous outfits at 8am, so good for her!  But it did give me pause when thinking about this week and the sartorial decisions required about going out straight after work, which I am doing two nights running (get me!).  I approached the issue with one solution: metallics!

Yesterday, prior to *a very special leaving event*, I mixed my going out skirt (metallic jacquard purple stars) with a sensible top and my normal black tights/ankle boots combo to take me from the office to the cocktail bar.  This was a relatively successful gambit, although the shortness and sparkliness of the skirt was commented upon in the cocktail bar, and a comment about ‘the bend and snap’ from someone who is not a reader of this blog (as far as I know…)!  Under the sensible top, I wore a t-shirt with diamante sparkles, so when the dancing started I was able to strip off a layer and get down to the cheesy songs (more on that another time).  The skirt is from Warehouse, which thanks to The Pool, I gave a second chance last year after years of writing it off, and it’s been an absolute treasure trove.

Tonight I bid farewell to another very special lady, but it’s a more casual event, and it’s Dress Down Friday, so it’s jeans and a sweatshirt.  But oh!  What a sweatshirt!  Metallic polka dots, matched with my gold Converse.  Adding a little sparkle elevates this from the mundane to the marvelous, I think, and I’ll be supremely comfy too.  Win win.  I love the combination of navy blue and gold on the Boden sweatshirt- softer and more forgiving than black, although that has its place too.  The only thing I’d say about the sweatshirt is I could have bought a size S, as the M is generous, but it gives a good oversized look.  I wish they’d used gold thread on the cuffs and neck, that would have made it perfect.

Pictures by colleagues! One in the cocktail bar and one in the office… 

On Sighing

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more
Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey, nonny, nonny.

(Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing)

I have a sighing habit. And it has been noticed. My first day in a new role, many years ago, I remember Aussie Nicole saying that I hadn’t stopped sighing, and it was driving her crazy. Recently Colleague 1 told Colleague 2 that she’d just have to get used to my sighing, and it didn’t necessarily indicate I was pissed off but did potentially have a myriad of meanings, including the sometimes correctly identified “sigh of disappointment”. Then the other day the woman I sit next to at work said “I’m going to start a tally chart of your sighing today! I reckon we’re up to at least ten already!”

So to save my colleagues and my papers from gusts of air and huffy sounding interjections, I did a bit of research into sighing and why we do it. Obviously, since a sigh is just a really deep breath with an audible exhale, it’s not surprising that sighing is really all about breathing. It originates from a life-saving reflex. We all sigh without realising we do it, just to open up our lungs and get enough oxygen in. There are theories that sighing acts as ‘a mental and physical reset’ – who hasn’t done a bit of deep breathing before something they’re nervous about? A sigh acts in the same way. For example, I know that when I’m tense my breathing gets more shallow, and as a result, I sigh more, in an attempt to get myself on an even keel.

Unfortunately, people perceive sighing as, in the main, an expression of negative emotions. Hence the “sigh of disappointment”. We think of sighs as being associated with frustration and difficulty. But actually I find that when I’m concentrating I sigh. And that’s a good thing for me. And what about sighs of satisfaction, or pleasure? How does a happy out-breath really differ from a negative one? Can you hear tone in breathing?

Anyway, I’m sure that despite my new-found self-awareness, sighing will continue – I don’t want my lungs to collapse, thanks very much. But as ever Shakespeare’s advice holds true today. In the spirit of “act the way you want to feel”, I won’t be sighing, but will instead continue to listen to my Happiness playlist, which is surely the modern version of singing “Hey nonny nonny”.

On the importance of… the nail salon

You’ve seen Legally Blonde, right? Of course you have, everyone’s seen Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde had a very deep impact on my life, because when I saw it during my university years it inspired me to take action in a very important area: I taught myself to touch type. It has been an invaluable skill! The ability to look at the screen, or even better, *at another person* and carry on typing, generally hitting the correct keys as I do so, has stood me in good stead, first writing essays at university, then emails in my work, and even now as I sit on the train typing this on a mini ipad keyboard. So I’m grateful to Legally Blonde for giving me a life skill!

But the relevance to this post is not about the joy of being the fastest fingers in East Anglia, but the importance of Elle’s friendship with Paulette at the nail salon. There will be no bending and snapping in this post, but I will admit, yesterday’s nail salon conversation did include the world “girlfriend”. And I used it only semi-ironically…

I’ve been frequenting the same salon for a couple of years now, the first time I ever had my nails done there was in advance of a big awards ceremony. But after I had my youngest baby and returned to work, having my nails done felt like a really important non-mum treat thing to do and I became a true devotee of gel nail polish. When I’m really on top of things, I have a standing appointment during my work lunch break. I can run out, get my nails done, and get back to the office. And because I have gel polish, once it’s set under the light, there’s no worries about smudging it or having to wait around for it to dry. Perfect! Now don’t be telling me all the bad things about gel polish and how I’m probably wrecking my nails underneath, and that light is probably cancer causing, blah blah blah… when I have my nails done, I feel polished, and that makes me feel kick ass. Frankly, ten years ago I’d no more have had a regular manicure than flown up in the air. But times have moved on and so have I. Having my nails done makes me happy (and more on happiness another time).

I’ve had my nails done in an emergency at the nail bar at the end of the road where I live by a man who didn’t speak great English and wore a mask, and the whole experience was not happiness inducing. If it weren’t for the girls at the nail salon I’d not have tried eyelash extensions, I wouldn’t have discovered The Weeknd, and known that I like listening to Kiss FM, and I wouldn’t have squeezed a pair of fake boobs. This blog may be a bit fabulous, but I’m actually a pretty serious and intense kind of person, so getting out in my lunchtime for a dose of normality is grounding. Remember that scene in Legally Blonde when the fierce professor swivels in her chair and she’s been having her nails done too?  That’s me…

You don’t see people every other week without talking about the real stuff too. Like hairdressers, there’s a zone of confidentiality when you sit in the chair with your nail technician. So when, last week my OPI “I’m not really a waitress” (red with a shimmer) chipped on four nails out of five, Cindy and Wendy, my guardian nail angels repaired me each time I turned up with a sad denuded nail and also threw in fifteen minutes of listening, all for free.

This week when I went for my regular redo, I was thinking ahead to Thursday night’s event I’ll be attending, and my chosen outfit. So I went for OPI Ink, a dark sparkly blue. Cindy put a coat of black underneath to help the sparkle really pop, and the depths of the blue are almost violet. Gorgeous!

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Squad Goals 

Apart from a penchant for red lipstick; full skirted sundresses; tall, blonde-curly-haired men (in my alternate reality I married Tom Hiddlestone) and heartbreak, I am nothing, nothing like Taylor Swift. This is one of life’s sadnesses – I will never be a twenty-something skinny, uber-successful ingenue songstress. I bloomed *way* too late for that. But I do have something Taylor’s got, and it took me this long to discover it…

I’ve got a SQUAD!  
My squad have swung into action over the past week, during a proper low. There are some long-term squad members, but also people who have surprised me. It makes me feel so bloody lucky and loved. They include: 
My former teacher and his wife. The kind of people you can call at 10am on a Saturday morning and tell them your heart is broken and you need to get the hell out of town, and they agree in an instant that you should be with them. So you turn up at their door three hours later, and cry, and they feed you and give you glasses of wine, and are kind when you cry some more. And you leave the next day knowing you’ll be OK because you have beautiful people like them in your life. And you have three gorgeous books to read that they’ve lent to you, and the fire in your heart to be yourself and to pursue your dreams.  
My boss, who when I called on Monday morning and told her I couldn’t stop crying because of a boy, swore with “the worst swearword I know”. I returned on Wednesday and she visited my desk with purpose and Germanic humour.  

Her: “Let me see your eyes.” *Teutonic psychic stare*. “You’ll be OK!”  

Me: “That’s the problem, I’m always ok.” 

Note – my eyes were still really puffy. Crying is not my friend.  
Welsh girl, let’s call her Cerys, who meets me for lunch, gives me a lift home on Thursday when Storm Doris wrecks the trains, and texts me tonight about her creme egg and sofa problem… and when I say I need a night out in Bury, she agrees without hesitation, even though apparently the club I want to go to ‘has sticky floors’. 
Nicole, my Aussie bridesmaid, the sender of Patron, poet and consummate facebook messenger. I love her with a true love that came about through *can’t stop laughing inappropriately in the office* circa 2007/8. She sends me messages of support telling me I am now Britain’s premier fashion blogger and a photo of her looking at a very large dildo to cheer me up, whilst confessing to inappropriate mum-drunkeness. Can’t wait for Summer 2018! It is *locked in*! 
Cambridge Historian, who is emigrating to the US, but believes in my club night idea, and when I said I needed distraction, immediately offered wine and a baby to cuddle.
My ex-husband. He’s allergic to chlorine but is doing something for me that exposes him to that eczema inducing chemical once a week. That’s love, even though it didn’t work out. The love is probably for Persie, but hey-ho, she’s part of me, so it counts.  
My psychotherapist. Emergency session on Monday because you can’t stop crying and left a sobbing message on her voicemail on Saturday morning? Hell yes. And on Monday when you get there she agrees “yes, this session was inevitable.”

 
Betty – well, she got a whole blog post, but everyone needs a straight talking Northern friend…
The slimming club ladies, together and separately, true friends. From Norwich brunch, to organising seeing Beauty and the Beast, to a long voicemail that didn’t make much sense, I know they’ve got my back.  
The girls at the nail bar, who are due a whole post of their own soon! But they fixed my gel polish twice this week, and when I said I didn’t know what was wrong with my right hand said “stress”. And also let me feel their new fake boobs… 
More work peoples! The girls who invited me on their spa day for women getting divorced and/or having a hard time. I was stupidly touched by the kindness because it’s sometimes quite lonely having been the boss. My team, who all could tell something was wrong but didn’t comment. Last but by no means least, the two -cky’s, my colleagues, and two very fabulous women, both of whom think in a structured way. It turns out I don’t think in a structured way at all! The first -cky has been there since I admitted to her… well it doesn’t matter what I admitted, but everything ridiculous I do, she laughs at and then understands… and she doesn’t judge my Boden habit. She looks me in the eyes and says “do you think you deserve happiness?” The second -cky is new to the squad, but is going to feature heavily. She told me a secret a couple of weeks ago; it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She wears very short skirts because she is very skinny; I am a bit jealous of that ability. 
And others, just because they don’t feature doesn’t mean they’re not there and special. I know that you’re mean to have, like, squad goals, like frolicking on a beach in bikinis, and writing BFF in the sand and photos with filters… but I’m too old for all that instagrammable crap. We just want for everyone to be happy and well adjusted and prosperous and fulfilled, whether you’re going through divorce or bereavement or boyfriend problems or work hard times or don’t know how to get creme egg off your sofa.  
My squad. Average age of 45! They drink decent wine! They worry about parenting! They book spa days! They read real literature and watch proper films! They are super mature and awesome.  
Thanks for being there.  

Jamie Dornan’s a really good actor

So I went to see Fifty Shades Darker. It had to be done. Two years ago, I went to see the first Fifty with my friend Betty. I’d not read the books at that point and was pleasantly surprised by how stylish the film was. I went home and I did read the books (because I wanted to find out what happened), and subsequently re-read the trilogy at least four times that year and the next. I’m not sure why it had such an effect, but clearly it was a phase I had to work through… best not to analyse it too deeply!

Last night, Betty and I, after some serious calendar synchronisation, finally made it out to see the latest instalment.

It is not a good film. It makes me sad to say so, as I was a passionate defender of the first film, which was stylish and tense and had that great sudden ending… this film has none of that. The thing that intrigued me most about this film was, of course, Dakota Johnson’s lipstick.  And the most disappointing bit was Jamie Dornan.
Jamie Dornan is a really good actor. I know, because I’ve watched The Fall. I loved The Fall. He was menacing, evil, calculating and really really sexy. I worried about how much I wanted to shag that serial killer… I did not want to shag Christian Grey in this film. I did, however, feel very very sorry for Jamie Dornan, whose acting talents were neglected in favour of him simply removing his clothes. Although he doesn’t seem too bothered about it, as you can see from his grin in the picture – he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

But I digress! Because really the best thing about my evening out was not eating an entire bag of Maltesers to myself, but spending some time with Betty. Having whispered to her at an opportune moment that Jamie Dornan’s acting talents were being shamefully wasted, the next time he appeared in a gratuitous top off shot, doing that standing up pull up thing men do at the gym to show off, and hoisting his body weight above a pommel horse, Betty leant towards me and whispered “he’s a really good actor you know.”

People didn’t quite shush us, but they did look around to see who was making all the noise. You know that thing where you laugh, and someone else laughs and it makes you laugh, and the next thing you know you can’t stop laughing? Turns out that is really what I needed.

And then I discovered that Betty also knows all the words to Jenny From the Block – even the rap part – and You Can Call Me Al, so we passed a very happy journey back home singing along to the Happiness Playlist with the car stereo at full volume, with seat dancing and hand gestures too.  When I ate my snack when I got in, I felt a twinge in my jaw, and I realised it hurt from all the smiling.

Friendship (and Cafe Britannia)

Weeks ago, I arranged to visit my friend who moved away last summer.  Sometimes being organised is a gift to your future self, as it can turn out that you’ve arranged good things for just when you need them most.  Yesterday I took a trip on the A11 to Norwich, which was enjoyable not just because I got to visit a city I’d never been to before (not being of these East Anglian parts, I’d not yet made it much past Thetford, Norfolk-wise), but also because I drove through the rain in Suffolk to a beautiful day, listening to music on my car stereo at a volume which is probably not sensible.  More pleasurable than all of that, of course, was that I got to see my friend.  At one point we did talk about eyelashes, but in the main we only spoke about the things that really matter and that’s why I love her – she’s just not superficial.  We joked about funerals, and cancer, and not being able to believe it when someone you love has died, and therapy and panic attacks.  You know, all the good stuff.  At points I had tears in my eyes, and so did she.  That’s a real conversation, and real friendship.  I also know that, in her own words, she won’t blow smoke up my arse, and she will tell it to me straight, and that’s friendship too.

We went to Cafe Britannia for brunch, which is a really lovely place and I was delighted that  she knew I’d love it for our girl-date.  In converted barracks, it’s got that shabby-chic Keep Calm and Carry On retro vibe, and is utterly unpretentious.  It’s staffed by low-risk prisoners, which is obviously A Good Thing, in both the cafe and the shop.  The menu was unfussy, but with plenty of choice, and the breakfast I ate was good and not too pricey.  Thirdly, the views over Norwich were spectacular.