What to do in London… when you think you’ve done it all

Dear friends, I am back after some hiatus, where you find TSR back in that hectic hub of Londres/Londinium/the “big smoke”.

Whatever you choose to call this hubub of city delights, it has something to offer even the choosiest connoisseur.

Think you’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt?” Well, TSR is here to tell you that there’s always a fresh piece of finely pressed cotton ready to be tried on – and what better place than the greatest city on Earth (this, TSR understands, is subject to interpretation) to find such new fashion?

TSR is no born and bred pie-and-liquor Londoner, but she has lived here on and off since 2009 – from the East End, to the North and now the West. TSR can not profess to having lived in South London, but having her roots north of the M25, stepping south of the river would be a step too far from her heritage.

Nevertheless, she has done her fair share of exploration within and beyond its Roman walls. And one has learned, to be bored of London is an impossibility indeed.

So without further ado, let’s take a step in well-worn London shoes and explore the depths of this sprawling urban space for adventures off the beaten path.

Park up

Look beyond your usual Hyde Park, Kensington fair. There are 3,000 parks in London, covering almost 18% of the city.

Within TSR’s new abode of Ealing, there is Walpole Park, which is currently adorned in spring blossom trees and pups aplenty. It may not be your usual convenient central London spot, but it is worth venturing out into these local, residential areas for a flavour of the distinct communities in London.

If you’re a local to the city, get on the train and explore parks beyond the usual spitting distance. Little gems can also be found closer to home than you realise. Near its famous big sister Hampstead Heath, for instance, lies Golders Hill Park with its landscaped park and free zoo. Light on the pocket and the crowds.

Fill the belly

When the weather is sour, a park might be far from your thoughts. So turn to the indoors instead and be led by your belly.

London is an eclectic smorgasbord of culinary exploration with far too many to list here. Step out of the usual haunts (and the overpriced plague that is Leicester Square) because there is always somewhere new to try.

Street food is now aplenty in the capital too if you wish to dine al fresco – or find a farmers market and take your wicker basket to stock up on goodies a little different from your local Tesco. You will find them spread throughout London beyond the usual hot spots.

Grow your brain

A venture to the V&A jewellery section on a Saturday afternoon may have you feeling like a sardine in a very tightly packed tin. While TSR highly recommends this closet of fine jewels and many a woman’s best friend, during tourist season you are best placed staying well away.

Tucked into a quiet corner of Greenwich sits the Fan Museum. This little but no less intriguing museum holds a delightful collection of fans throughout the ages. You may not be a fan of fans now, but look beyond your preconceptions and you’ll be surprised.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is not typically listed on the major museum hotspots, but is all the better for it. Firstly, it is as free as the air we breathe. Second, it is stuffed full of weird and wonderful curiosities which Sir John collected over his lifetime.

The Cartoon Museum, the Museum of Brands and the Freud Museum are just three other little-known museums that are worth a peak.

Stretch your pencils

Instead of jumping on the Tube, when taking a lazy day – walk it instead. Look up, down and turnaround. It is far more interesting to explore the streets than the armpit of a fellow Tube traveller.

Whether you’re a tourist or not, taking a guided tour can also give you a whole new perspective on this vast metropolis. TSR is not talking here of the standard Harry Potter or Jack the Ripper jaunts (which although fun, are one a penny). Take a Secret Walking Tour to discover those bits of London you never knew existed. London Walks provides a varied pick-n-mix assortment of walking tour treats too – such as its offering in little-known (to TSR) Rotherhithe Village.

Wet the whistle

It wouldn’t be London without a little waterhole to quench the thirst and there are plenty to supply that need. But if you’re looking for something different, you’ll need to tickle your tastebuds beyond the usual spots.

You have probably heard of J.M.W. Turner, but did you know he owned a pub in the East End? Turner’s Old Star still exists and is as old-school and British as it gets. Ideal for a pint and a genteel conversation on the merits of The Fighting Temeraire.

If you require a harder tipple of the cocktail persuasion and a jazzier conversation, then London has those kind of joints too – and hidden ones at that.

Don a flapper dress or your tweed deer stalker hat and investigate the hidden speakeasies and cocktail bars of London town, from The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, to Evans & Peel Detective Agency and The Gibson.


If you’re still not sated after your fill of fusion food, intellectual education and free-to-view kookaburras, there is sure to be a new event or two in London.

Time Out is a reliable weekly updated guide as to what weird and wonderful events are on offer. Highlights to come, as of the time of writing, include a canal boat pageant in Little Venice, an Eid festival in Trafalgar Square and an “insect art” exhibition.

If nothing floats your boat there, dear readers, nothing will.

TSR hopes you enjoyed this little bit of London enlightenment. Do enjoy gracing these places with your presence. Until next time…


A shrinkflation Christmas

It is time to celebrate the birth of little baby Jesus. And in what better way can we honour him by stuffing ourselves silly with turkey, fruity pudding and half a box of chocolates from granny. It’s what he would have wanted.

But with inflation rifer than Bublé’s Christmas album and everyone tightening their belts, will this mean we have to settle for a shrinkflation Christmas? With a turkey so small there’s no chance of leftover turkey and stuffing sandwiches? Triple Christmas jumper layering so the eye-watering expensive heating can stay firmly off? The horror of receiving three-for-two Boots gift sets you never, ever asked for?

On entering Sainsbury’s this last eve, TSR found herself faced with a massive poster advertising its “Christmas dinner for less than £4 per person”. This is clearly a sign of a s tripped-down Christmas. Especially as a Christmas pudding wasn’t even mentioned (heresy).

However, a recent trip to Harrod’s showed TSR there is still plenty of money in certain echelons of society. So tightly packed was one in the food hall, we felt like the stuffed turkey itself.

Yet for the majority of us peasants, there is a definite sense of penny pinching this festive season. Not that you’d know it from the abundance of Christmas lights and reindeer statues adorning people’s homes. Everyone is finding a way to celebrate. And this is not surprising given the last two years of lockdown, bubble-laden Christmases we’ve all had to endure.

So how best to celebrate this Shrinkflation Christmas on a budget?

Firstly, think quality not quantity. And yes, for TSR, that involves a nice box of Quality Street.

Next, invest in some battery-powered lighties to adorn your indoor and outdoor trees. Take great pride in saying, suck it, British Gas.

Use your talents to make some homemade gifts. Everyone has a trick up their sleeve. Do a spot of painting. If it’s bad, just tell your recipient it’s “contemporary art”.

Don’t scrimp on the turkey. Make cuts elsewhere. The turkey and stuffing sandwich is a food of the gods (and Jesus). Without it, there is no Christmas.

Last but not least: burst those bubbles, grab your loved ones and revel. Bonus, they’re free. Until you need to give them presents…

And with that, TSR and Alfie, the Christmas pudding sock-adorned doggo, wish you a Merry Shrinkflation Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Top tips for budding digital nomads

2022 threw many a cat amongst the pigeons. One particular cat forced many of us to convert our kitchens into offices come schools and home working became the norm. With the cover of Covid lifted, at least in the UK, some of us realised we actually liked this freedom thing and became full-time digital nomads, forever untied from the water cooler. TSR was one such human, so if you’re thinking you’d like a go at this new-age lifestyle, read on for some top digital nomad tips…

What is a digital nomad?

Working remotely, from wherever you like, often with just a laptop and phone as your office. Like TSR, this can give you the freedom to travel and roam as you work, releasing you from any single, home station.

For some, if you work for a company that allows it, you can travel around the world too, free from the Dolly Parton, nine-to-five humdrum.

Can I be a digital nomad?

Nomading in a cafe

If you’re a nurse, it would not be exactly practical. But if you’re an engineer or writer, for instance, the world is your oyster.

Many companies have since taken up hybrid working permanently; some, completely remote – especially in the tech space. If you run your own business, you only need to ask yourself for permission, you lucky thing.

There is, of course, the matter of responsibilities – such as caring for family – which may prevent the travelling aspect from coming to fruition. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the work-from-home lifestyle – take your laptop down to the local cafe (or pub even, TSR doesn’t judge).

What do I need to be a digital nomad?

Tech wise, a good laptop and smartphone and any other paraphernalia you may require. Many digital-first companies provide a nice little budget for you to spend on your home office.

Mentally, you’ll need to be self-motivated, organised and independent. If you need a manager’s lurking presence to keep you on your toes or the physical presence of a group of colleagues every day, stick to the office.

Where should I stay as a travelling digital nomad?

Airbnb is the posterchild of short and long term bookings, but don’t automatically get lured in by its simplicity and top Google ranking. These days. Airbnb can be expensive (especially in the UK, where holiday rental prices is enough to make the eyes water). That said, there are still gems to be found.

Don’t forget Booking.com, which has everything from hotels to flats – whatever floats your boat (they probably have those too). Holiday cottage websites – like the aptly named cottages.com – are also handy, especially for UK stays.

With the revolution in nomadic working, a string of work/co-living spaces have cropped up across the world, such as Outsite and Wooda, where you can work with and meet fellow nomads.

And with any of these places, make sure you have the basics before you press the book button:

  • Wifi (naturally)
  • Washing machine (this will help you pack efficiently)
  • A nearby train station or bus stop if you’re sans car
  • A nearby shop for essentials, such as wine, cheese and… wine

Top packing tips for the travelling digital nomad

TSR’s overused suitcase and backpack. Colour co-ordination is not necessary, but actively encouraged.

This is a whole different ball game to holiday packing. It is likely you’ll be staying on the road, rail tracks or flight paths for some time if you’re going the whole hog on your nomadic adventure, so you need to pack carefully.

Get skimpy

As TSR discovered, you don’t actually need ten hats for a month-long trip. You should be able to get everything into one large suitcase and a good, strong waterproof backpack.

Where you’re going, in what climate and for how long will all determine exactly what you need to take, but if you’ve access to a washing machine, you shouldn’t need to pack clothes for more than two weeks.

For summer, it is a simpler state of affairs. Clothes are lightweight and can be rolled up and neatly packed in. For wintery weather, think lighter long-sleeved items that can be layered with two or three warm jumpers you can wear on rotation. Have one good coat that goes with everything, has a hood and is waterproof, to cover all your bases.

Top tip for digital nomads of the lady persuasion: leggings – though not the most fashionable – are comfy and squish nicely into a suitcase far better than jeans.

And remember, leave some space for anything souveniry you pick up along the way.

Take a few essentials

A generous arrival gift of absolute essentials from a cottage owner – but don’t always expect this treatment

If you like your PG Tips, take a few teabags with you. You never truly know what your accommodation will provide for you.

Likewise, TSR takes a few dishwasher and washing machine tabs to start her off.

Foodie wise, if you’ve room, pack salt and pepper, mixed herbs and chilli flakes (or whatever gets you going). They last a long time and it avoids you having to pay for them again in every new nomad spot.

Take an Amazon Fire TV stick

You may find your nomadic self in a cottage with little more than a few channels and no Smart TV, so to solve this first world problem, always come armed with an Amazon Fire TV stick if you have one.

Should I get insurance if I’m a travelling digital nomad?

Yes, even if you’re bopping along in your own country. Often, the accommodation will offer insurance as an add-on, but it is cheaper to get a year-long insurance policy for worldwide travel from an insurer – that will cover your stays and any hollibobs.

Last, but not least: a washing quick fix

As a final tip, if you do become stuck without a washing machine or launderette and are in dire need of fresh undies, stick them in the shower with you. Then have fun trying to find somewhere to hang them to dry…

You can find TSR twittering here… twitter.com/shrinkflate

Where to take tea in Edinburgh: the best cafe spots

After several trips to the city of the true north in the last year, there is one thing TSR can say with confidence: Edinburgh is a city of cafe lovers.

With the type of wind that makes wearing a skirt practically impossible, it is no wonder that the folk here quickly seek shelter in the nearest tea room or cafe.

But when you have the luxury of time and lighter winds, how do you choose from this pick ‘n mix collection? TSR has yet to sample them all (that would require a good portion of one’s time), but here are some personal favourites she has taken to for a writing or book-reading spot.

Note: due to high demand, often small spaces in old buildings and an abundance of students “studying”, you’ll find many a cafe is stuffed by lunchtime. Top tip: an early to mid-morning spot tends to give you more wiggle room in finding a seat. Casually “hanging around” someone whose coffee cup is empty is also highly recommended, so you can pounce on the table once their bottom has vacated their seat.

Söderberg (Meadows)

The infamous cardamon bun at Söderberg

This Swedish joint may not sell meatballs, but it does sell the most delicious baked goods. Its pièce de résistance being the cardamon bun. Don’t be suspicious of the cardamon, it works. Trust TSR.

It has several spots across the city, but this is its biggest and is conveniently located next to the Meadows. This lovely expanse of grassland, complete with many a pup being walked, is perfect to take your takeaway tea and bun if the aforementioned students have taken up every seat in the house (it’s also close to the university).

Classic Swedish savoury treats are also on offer, such as läxrora, its take on the smoked salmon open sandwich. Enjoy in a window seat and people watch, feeling as cool as a Swede in this contemporary but cosy cafe.

Fortuna (Queen Street)

Take a step off the main thoroughfare of Princes Street and due north you’ll find a little hidden gem. Fortuna could easily get missed, but fortunate for TSR, she was staying nearby, in need of some sustenance and with Google Maps at hand, voila.

Fortuna tends to be quieter due to its off-the-main-beat location, so it is handy if you’re looking for a Saturday bite. It’s perfect for early risers, with a good breakfast offering from 8.30am – just make sure you’re not a late luncher, it closes at 3pm.

The avocado on toast, though cliche, is delicious – with extra toppings like feta and even chives for the fancy ones amongst you. Everything from tuna toasties to granola also feature here.

It’s cute, small and very Edinburgh. The food fresh and window seats for more people watching. Worth a look in.

Snax Cafe (W Register St)

The view from Calton Hill isn’t half bad

TSR could be committing Scottish treason by letting this one out the bag. Snax is a local haunt, especially for students in need of cheap, no-nonsense hangover cures. TSR only knows it due to being in-the-know from a Scottish native. It’s hidden away, but close to Waverley Station, so right in the heart of the bustle.

Think an all-day breakfast for £4.50 or a haggis bap for £2.40 and you catch the drift here. It’s all good, old-school greasy spoon fare – and delicious.

Just don’t expect a seat here, you order from a hatch outside – but that’s all part of the Snax experience. The choice is to walk and munch or do as TSR did and quick walk yourself up Calton Hill and dine on your haggis bap there, taking in the view of the city as an extra reward.

Wellington Coffee (George Street)

The tiniest of TSR’s top picks, this spot takes you down to basement level, into a cosy cafe which is popular – meaning, there could be a queue and therefore inadequate room to swing a cat. But it is worth the trip for its not-too-sweet hot chocolate and its oh-so-sweet cakes and scones. There’s no savoury offerings here, but who needs that when the carrot cake provides one of your five a day.

There are some seats inside if you’re lucky to bag one and plenty outside on a sunny day. The staff are smiley and friendly too, which always adds extra points.

Being in the hub of New Town, it’s super convenient, but naturally busy. So sharpen those elbows or just take to go and wander down to Princes Gardens.

Waterstones (Princes Street) and Starbucks (Princes Street)

A little independent is always preferable in TSR’s eyes, but needs must on occasion – and there are no two better options than Waterstones cafe and Starbucks on Princes Street which both command views over Old Town and its star attraction, Edinburgh Castle.

There are perches aplenty in both, but they still get busy – so head there earlier rather than later for your best chance to nab a spot.

The culinary delights are less to be desired than the other options on show here (walk away from the salmon bagel in Waterstones), so come here for a coffee and the sights – then head out for some good grub.

You can find TSR twittering here… twitter.com/shrinkflate

The joy of journalling

The curse of the cursor. The panic of the blank page. Writer’s block can be enough to turn your attention away from your duties and seek the comforts of a Twitter scroll. But there is a way to defy Elon Musk’s new pet and get your write on, as TSR has recently rediscovered – and it’s as simple as keeping a journal.

Why should I journal?

You’re thinking, I’ve not kept a diary since I was nine – that pink, fluffy, padlocked one – and I have no time for this nonsense.

First, your diary doesn’t have to be pink and fluffy. Nor does is have to be nonsense.

They say it’s easiest to write about what you know. Your life is a story with every detail and facet in that brain of yours, all ready and prepared like a ready meal. All you have to do, is write it down.

There’s no pressure to try and write a bestseller either. Instead, think of it as an outlet for you to get creative and stamp your thoughts down in any fashion you wish.

And regardless of whether you’re an inspiring writer or not, keeping a journal is the perfect way to have your own personal therapy session without the hefty cost of an actual therapist. Whatever is bottled up, scribble it down. Your diary has no judgement. You’ll be surprised how releasing it is for the page to take the weight off your shoulders.

What do I need to journal?

Get a nice notebook and pen

Make the process enjoyable. You can keep a journal on your laptop if you wish, but TSR highly recommends you get yourself a notebook and pen that you like holding and looking at – in whatever colour, material and style you fancy.

Heck, do it with a quill and ink if that’s your jam.

Find a comfortable space

Whether that be your favourite armchair or in a local cafe, make sure you feel relaxed and able to take some time to write for yourself.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be quiet. You may find some buzz about you helps. Or that actually, being in a bath, locked away, with some lavender candles is the way to go – just don’t drop the notebook in the bathtub in the process.

How do I start to journal?

Write the date

This isn’t strictly necessary, but you may fancy going back over your thoughts in days or even years to come. It can be enlightening, embarrassing, or both (TSR can attest to this) but it doesn’t matter – it’s a record of you, in that moment.

Freeflow for a few minutes

At the back of your diary, have a ‘freeflow space’.

Here, for a few minutes, you can write everything and anything that comes into your head, to get the juices flowing.

It can be random words, phrases, sudden thoughts, a shopping list… whatever it is, just get it down.

Write your day’s entry

There are no rules as to how you write a diary, which for TSR, is the beauty of it.

If you struggle to begin with, simply write down what happened that day or the day before, if you’re an early bird, and go from there. No day is boring. You may have been in bed all day nursing a cold, but TSR can guarantee, you’ll have had many a thought.

Note down your feelings, thoughts, dreams and fears. You may find it strange at first, but try it and you’ll see how cathartic it can be.

As you progress over time, you’ll find your voice develop. Remember, there is no one watching or marking you. No need to edit or study syntax. It’s more about the process and it’s benefits for you, rather than the end physical, product.

No entry has to be the same, either. It can be short, long, a poem, bullet points, even a sketch (it doesn’t have to be a Monet, but kudos if you can achieve such feats).

How often should I journal?

The world is your oyster. Making it a daily habit is the best option, however, especially if you want to improve your writing skills.

Try finding a spot in the day that works for you, be it first thing in the morning, before bed or with your midnight snack. TSR finds after work in a local cafe with a cuppa gives her something to look forward to.

Switch and play with the timings and see what’s best. You may find it’s more creative mixing it up. No one size fits all.

And don’t knock yourself down if you miss a day. Just take it back up when you can and see where it takes you…

The Dark Ages: Part II. What to do in Blackout Britain?

The National Grid and a dark warning

It is a struggle to find any lightness within the deep, dark depths of increasingly bleak news. And… TSR is here to tell you, today is, alas, no different. The National Grid has warned that the UK could face three-hour blackouts this winter as a result of the energy crisis.

Most British media led with the story, The Mirror went for the dramatic headline, a “return to the dark ages”. TSR, not having entered this world until 1989 and having a degree mostly based on ever-useful medieval and early modern history, naturally assumed this meant we’d have to don tunics, drink watered-down beer and act dumb. But no, this was a reference to the blackouts of the 1970s, for which a good portion of the British will be memorable.

With enough doom and gloom provided by the media, TSR shall instead provide some “practical” advice, should this worse case scenario lay at our doors.

What do I during a blackout?

Light a fire. Not everyone has one of these environmentally unfriendly, coal guzzling fireplaces, but boy, so such owners feel smug now. Needs must dear ones. And not only does this fire emit that thing called warmth we’re all dreaming about, but some light to boot. This is a two-for-one offer, the likes of Tesco could never dream of.

If the price of wood happens to shoot up, because why wouldn’t it, even Spam isn’t immune, then think outside the box. Try using some other material – along the lines of Shades of Gray, say, for which you will find in abundance in any good charity shop near you and surely cannot be missed.

Candles. This is how they did it in the old days. Think Mrs Bucket and her candlelit suppers. You’re never going to look better than in light of a candle – nature’s Snapchat filter. Take the opportunity to be snap camera happy and get your glow on, if you have enough electricity to charge your phone, that is.

Feeling swanky? Use scented candles for a glamorous take. Beware mixing your scents, however. Old Library mixed with Bubblegum Fairy could leave many a human with nausea and praying for darkness.

Torchlight. One for the kids. Pretend you’re camping, but inside. It’ll be cold enough for the full experience, seeing as you can’t turn on the heating.

Put up a tent in the living room. But keep any candles at a distance if you’re planning on mixing and matching these tips. We’re looking to light the home, not light it up quite literally into a towering inferno.

Don’t do anything. Embrace the darkness. Without one sense, they say your other ones enhance. Use your hands, ears and smell to find your way around. Randomly select something from the fridge and voila, a surprise dinner you have to guess on taste alone.If anything, it’s an excuse to go to bed early and give Bake Off a miss too, if you don’t fancy crawling around on your hands and knees all evening.

Do have plasters in your pocket, just in case, of course. You never know when a door may pounce on your nose.

A green and pleasant land with a murky future

Last week, while watching the Sky programme A League of Their Own, TSR heard one panelist use the words “bellend” and “wanker” – much to TSR’s merriment.

It occured to her that she hadn’t heard these terms of endearment since the noughties and made a mental note to use them in future where she could.

Thankfully, the UK government volunteered to be one of the first to receive the honour of being called a bellend, by being utterly incompetent and laughing stock the world over.

(TSR is sure there are far fruitier words many of us could come to think of when describing this bunch, but let’s keep it relatively PC here in these pages.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in a molehill, in a soundproofed house, then you will know the UK as well as many places in the world are facing inflation. Due to a couple of years of endless spending to prop up lockdowns, few in the economical sphere will be surprised this has been dumped on us. Perhaps except the bellend government and the equally bellend Bank of England who seem to not have foreseen this coming or chose to ignore it.

The added bonus of an energy crisis has spawned out of the pandemic, as renewed demand for gas outstripped supply. Yes, this was happening before Russia invaded Ukraine. That little thing compounded the problem, of course, when we all started sanctioning Russia and they cut off our supplies. But don’t worry, the sanctions are clearly working exceptionally well while we all face blackouts and the prospect of selling organs to pay for our electricity bills.

On a note of seriousness, there are always worse conditions facing others. Which we would do well to remember. But, as a developed, first-world country, you wonder – how did we get here and is there any way out?

The prospect is bleak. Today, Liz Truss has been appointed our next not-elected, we-didn’t-ask-for-this prime minster. TSR likes to give the benefit of the doubt, but all we’re feeling here is simple doubt.

Thousands of UK pubs face closure with bills expected to rise five fold in some cases. People on £45,000 salaries could struggle with bills. The cost of living crisis means millions of people are missing out on meals because they simply can’t afford it.

These are staggering and sobering thoughts.

Having searched for productive articles on solutions to these problems, TSR could find diddly squat. It is no wonder everyone talks in black tones about the price of Spam and This Morning is offering to pay your energy bills as a prize in its light, day-time competition.

The UK has lost faith in its government, TSR included, after a bellend-worthy stack of mistakes. Despite the new lady in charge pledging to solve the crisis ahead, it is all empty words until we see the proof of the pudding. Which let’s face it, will likely take eons to bake, with the high chance of a soggy bottom.

For TSR, she fears for this green and pleasant land. What hope she had, is wearing thin. Time will tell what happens from here.

But in the meanwhile, at least quokkas are happy.

Do not mess with la mia pizza

Language is a beautiful thing, no less so to TSR, whose day job is to make sure that everyone’s English is kept polished, correct and grammatical. But learning another language has not proven so simple; more a pain in the derrière.

Yet, in what could be a last-ditch attempt, TSR has once again downloaded her Duolingo app from the cloud, to be put through her French paces with its cute, green owl cheerleader cartoon. This fellow cheers her on with every lesson learnt, awarding her with “gems”. Yes, it may be infantilising, but damn that owl is cute, and its bear friend is egging you on every time you pronounce “les toilettes” correctly. It’s enough to make you swell with pride.

But TSR has learnt something far more important than being able to ask for the bathrooms in a moment of need. That would be the knowledge that pizza is a feminine noun, as it is in the fellow romantic language of its origin, Italy,

It is a great shame then that US pizza takeaway company Domino’s didn’t think to learn a little of its foodstuff’s origins before attempting to launch in Italia. Seven years later, it is retreating with its cheese-stuffed tail between its legs after a failed attempt to launch in the birthplace of la pizza. Everyone knows you don’t mess with a woman, or mother Italy for that matter. Especially when it comes to its cuisine.

TSR will be the first to acknowledge that she likes a Domino’s. But Britain is a hotbed of foodie influences. We know when we fancy a deep-pan, meat feast pizza pie and when we want a thin, crispy stonebaked Margarita. Domino’s can’t offend us for one and all pizza is foreign to us.

But if a company, unlikely as it may seem, came from the other side of the pond with Yorkshire puddings in competition to any made by those up north Angleterre, we might just tell them to “Go do one.”

And so it is no surprise that the Italians have told Domino’s to do likewise and “Vai a farne uno.”

If pride wasn’t enough, the Guardian points out a pizza in Italy can cost as little as €5 (£4.22). If you frequent a Domino’s joint with any regularity, you will know it costs double that, even with one of its “deals” and a garlic & herb dip on the side.

Domino’s has not been helped by a little pandemic, but TSR thinks this pizza endeavour may have ended up flat as a pancake regardless. Having been to Italy, if only only on one occasion, it does not take a rocket scientist to see the heart, soul and passion that goes into their food. An American giant trying to move in on their turf was somewhat admirable, but also incredibly… stupide.

Nevertheless, TSR shall continue to enjoy both her American and Italian pizza offerings in earnest. But perhaps, she will keep this quiet when next within the Italian borders, for there is nothing like an Italian scorned.

TSR Diary: train tantrums and apples

After a tiring few weeks of overthinking and regret, plus a general hitting of the 32-year-old-life crisis, TSR has discovered she now may have permanently itchy adventure feet – and thus finds herself back on the railroads this weekend.

And for anyone brave enough to take a train in the strike-laden UK like myself, you may have been treated to yesterday’s train from London Euston to Edinburgh, which was peppered with delightful commentary from the train manager.

“There are a hundred seats empty on this train. Please stop standing by the emergency exits,” came the first of many quips (as TSR got on at Crewe, one suspects he had already been laying this on thick for an hour or two already).

“There are hundreds of seats on this train. Stop standing in the emergency exits,” was our next instruction, the numbers of seats having apparently magically expanded several fold at our Warrington stop.

With the recent train strikes causing havoc and misery for many, with ticket prices more expensive than a flight to Espana, TSR doubts many travellers had much sympathy for his plight. If anything, it would not surprise if a cheeky passenger or two preferred standing uncomfortably just for the chance to hear a train manager audibly exploding over the radio.

The lads surrounding TSR, comfortably seated and on their way to Edinburgh for a bender, were certainly enjoying the entertainment – tittering happily at the manager’s steadily increasing rage, whilst playing cards and drinking Budweiser.

Naturally, some were just too lazy to search for a seat. But if you are like one such TSR who travels with her life in a suitcase, it is not easy to search for these “hundreds” of seats without banging several knees in the aisles and breaking out into a full-body sweat. A pretty picture it does not make.

That’s why TSR, now well versed in regular train travel, upgraded for the comfort. All that is left is to pray your train is not cancelled and you’re not packed into another train several hours later, like a can of sardines.

Luckily, she left at Carlisle quite comfortably, parked herself into a curious pub come cafe to wait for the next leg of the journey, and quietly pondered if the train manager would make it to Edinburgh in one piece.

After a short second leg on the famous Carlise to Settle railway, TSR landed in Appleby in Cumbria at a quaint house, perfectly formed and just about big enough to swing a cat in.

The British summer weather is predictably odd, both very humid but cloudy with a chance of rain, rendering tourists in a rather mixed get-up of shorts and heavy coats wrapped around the waist.

TSR finds the cottage’s garden at the back, amongst a patchwork of other gardens for the adjoining abodes, all carved out from land once owned by the nearby castle. Sat in the summerhouse, apples growing over the fence, it is quiet, but peaceful and evoking of memories.

It also, TSR thinks, would be an ideal spot for any stressed train managers reading, to perhaps spend a week or two.

Hot dogs and Englishmen

Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun…

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Noel Coward

If you’re anywhere in Europe at this very moment, no doubt you are baking slowly like a Sunday roast, with your hot dogs somewhere in the vicinity.

If you have one of these hot doggies, doggos or poochies, however you prefer to name them, they are invariably a part of the family: sneaking into your heart, however cold, and turning you into a big ball of mush who insists on calling them “my little baby” even though they left puphood years ago.

Since the last two years have rendered us of many types of fun or human interaction, many of us turned to these furry creatures to stick a smile on our faces. But in doing so, we have inflated doggo prices into the stratosphere.

Back in 1999, my parents bought a mongrel rescue puppy. Named Jazz, she cost the grand old price of £15. The love and joy she brought, of course, was priceless. She died a few days before her 19th birthday in 2018, leaving a hole in many a heart.

After much deliberation, some years and the aforementioned lockdowns later, my parents decided they’d like to adopt again. But this was 2021. Doggos were now hot property. Parents who couldn’t hear “I’M BORED” from their children once more without hitting the gin bottle, were paying a packet for whatever doodle mix they could get their hands on. So was the demand.

My parents wanted to rescue, as they did before, but the sunny days of 90s pop and decent interest were gone. Every rescue centre they contacted was puppyless. Adult rescue doggies were a unfortunate no-no, often being unsuitable for homes with children. As my extended family insist on procreating at a rate of knots, children are often parked at my parents, thus the search continued.

As if by fate, a fellow volunteer working with my dad brought along his dog, a Jack Russell/Norfolk Terrier mix, called Boris (yes, TSR imagines he regrets that choice). It turned out Boris’ mum had just had another litter. A photo was whipped off to my parents (and TSR, for she was in lockdown with them) and lo and behold, it was love.

There was… one small thing. The £900 pricetag. That’s a 5,900% increase over 23 years, from Jazz to new pup. TSR will let you decide whether it was worth it.

£900 of doggo

If your answer is no, TSR politely asks you to take another look.

Some may even consider this cheap. Poo mixes and pedigrees can fetch £2,000+ a pop. The fact people are willing to pay such a price, shows just how mad we Englishmen are for our furry friends. It is true, TSR did not have to shed a dime for this one, but knows she would in a heartbeat.

This particular furball was christened Alfie (sometimes Alf, Alfonso or Alfred, depending on the occasion). He is a master at hiding bones in your bed, dribbling a football around the garden at Bolt-like speed and generally melting hearts wherever he goes.

When TSR returns from her travels, now free from government laws, she is greeted by many a lick and cuddle. Alfie also has an uncanny ability, like many a dog, to read your mood – a tear, and TSR knows how to shed one or two of those, and he is there to lie down by your side and offer an emotional buffer against the inevitable humps in the road, which we all face.

So although we may complain shrinkflation is diminishing Freddos in front of our eyes, decry the fact inflation is sinking our hopes of ever owning a home and forgo dinner for a week to fill up our car, doggies continue to rise in price ever more – and we’d still say, they’re worth it.

18 months on: shaggier, gingerier but no less cute