So long, farewell ….


As L1 and I watched the news last week, it occurred to us that we’d arrived in New York in the midst of the Roy Moore scandal and will leave it just as Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the supreme court. What grim bookends to our stay here. Two accused assaulters, one of them, to quote my friend L, “a beer guzzling frat boy creep” who lied repeatedly and behaved like a poisonous, partisan lunatic in a senate hearing, and somehow managed to persuade President Trump and most of the GOP that he, rather than Doctor Ford, was the one deserving of the country’s sympathy and support. In between these two events, the MeToo movement had been unceasingly vociferous, but to what end?  So that a man like Kavanaugh can be allowed to shape the laws pertaining to sexual assault, gay marriage, abortion rights and more for the next forty some years? So that he can rule to protect Trump from being indicted?

It’s all very depressing, and I have an inbox full of emails telling me just how depressing it is. What is there to say except that I hope the Republican party gets a resounding ass- kicking in the upcoming mid-term elections, and that President Trump finally gets his come uppance at the hands of Robert Mueller.

But these bleak bookends to our New York year aren’t the only thing we’ve been contemplating. As our departure date drew near, we found ourselves reflecting on everything we’d loved about the year. One evening a few weeks ago, we were sitting on a bench in Central Park and I asked L1 what he thought he would miss about living here.

“Well, that view, for a start,” he said, pointing ahead.

The view L1 will miss

Thus began a conversation that lasted until the day he left for London. Naturally, I made notes. What will we miss about living in New York?  Let me tell you…

Being close to North American friends and family. This is definitely number one on the list. We’ve seen more of my sister and her family and my parents this year than in all of the three previous years combined, and enjoyed precious catch up time with friends from Rhode Island, Chicago, Colorado, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. What joy.

America (and Canada) on our doorstep. We’ve spent time in some exceedingly beautiful places this year – Maine, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, Half Moon Bay, Napa Valley, Montreal, Wyoming, Florida. It was a bonus to be able to get to them without a transatlantic flight and the attendant jet lag.

Central Park. Especially the bit above 69thStreet. And the bits where you can go and sit on a rock overlooking a lake and imagine you’re in a remote forest location in British Columbia.  Glorious.

The Jackie Kennedy Reservoir in north Central Park

Urban strolling: the fact that we walk virtually everywhere, and that there’s always something interesting to look at on the way. Walking to and from restaurants is a particular bonus. And being able to walk to the cinema means you’re more likely to go, and even go alone, as I did twice this past week.

Everything within reach. There’s everything we could possibly need within two blocks of our apartment – supermarkets, drug stores, wine, gin, coffee, Lulu Lemon, Nike, Occitane. It’s so damned convenient.

The package room boys, who receive all your deliveries from Amazon, UPS and Fedex and hold them till you call, then bring them up to your apartment. So, no schlepping down to the post office with one of those annoying little sorry we missed you cards, only to discover that the package has been returned to sender.

Sunshine and crisp blue skies. Also, hailing a bright yellow cab under a crisp blue sky, which makes you feel as if you’ve stepped straight off the set of Sex and the City.

Halloween done well. In the States, Halloween isn’t just a night, it’s a season. And they really go to town, starting on the 1stOctober, decorating their houses, gardens and shop windows with autumnal, harvest-festivally type features, including more types of pumpkin that you ever knew existed. When the actual day arrives, the streets are filled with joyful children in elaborately constructed costumes, and their equally joyful parents, some of them also in costumes. (We’ll be returning to the UK just in time to witness a Halloween that, in our neighbourhood at least, consists largely of teenage boys wearing ghost masks who throw your pumpkin against the door if you don’t give then enough candy.)


Great Californian wines. They save all the best ones for domestic consumption, apparently, whereas in the UK we get the dregs.

The Frick.I’ve mentioned this before. It’s a museum like no other. Intimate yet breathtaking. And those Holbeins – I could look at them a thousand times and not get bored.

The Michael Kors store opposite Barney’s on Madison. A store? you say. How crass. How superficial. But I’ve had some excellent times in this particular store  –  with my sister and a Montreal friend when my sister was in a spendy mood; with L2 when he decided he needed to replenish his wardrobe

L1 buying jeans and a shirt in Michael Kors

and we became firm friends with the salesgirl; and with Toronto friends R and B, when B was obliged to do an impromptu catwalk show of everything he tried on, and we conspired to get him to buy much more than the single shirt he came in for.

Dallas and Clint at the SCK Salon. They’re ludicrously expensive, but they’re excellent hairdressers and even better company. Clint, I’m sorry I never made it back in for that last trim and to say goodbye.




Our favourite restaurants. The local and walkable August, Cognac, and Boathouse; the Drunken Munkey for Indian; Lupa for Italian; Balthazar for noisy, Soho fun.

Cognac on Lexington

Our only regret is not having tried Tony’s at Sixty Fourth and Third. It’s an old fashioned  Italian trattoria – all red and white checked table cloths, candles in wine bottles, and white uniformed waiters with rococo moustaches. Groups of elated people are forever spilling out of its doors clutching balloons. We walked by it a hundred times and always said, we really should go there, but somehow we never did.


Our NY friends, new and old.You know who you are. We’ve enjoyed helping you to keep the waiters up past their bedtime.

Our apartment. It’s pretty and cosy and furnished just the way we would have furnished it ourselves. We love the wide open street and the gardens, and we love the Upper East Side location, which is like an oasis of civilised calm in what can sometimes be the abrasive rough and tumble of Manhattan.

Cooper, the terrier who lives on our floor, and with whom we had many a pleasant conversation in the lift.

The basement gym in our building. No question, having a gym just an elevator ride away ensures that you exercise more. There are no excuses.

Andy Grant. A few months ago, L1 decided that, despite having access to a basement gym, he wasn’t feeling motivated or working hard enough. So, he engaged Andy Grant as a personal trainer. A former marine and amateur heavyweight boxing champion, Andy is a trainer like no other. After L1’s first session he returned to the apartment with jelly legs and had to lie down for an hour. He soon got used to Andy’s take-no-prisoners, surprise-your-body approach, but the workouts are never less than overwhelmingly challenging.

The great Andy Grant

I made sure to avoid being in the gym when L1 and Andy were in there because I was terrified I might also be lured into Andy land. Which, in the end, I was. During my last week in New York I did four sessions with Andy that transformed the way I think about fitness, strength and flexibility. It’s addictive.  We’re now trying to work out how to keep Andy in our exercise lives via Sky


The Arthur Murray Dance School on Fifth.We’ve had so much fun learning to dance, and spending time with the Arthur Murray gang. They’re an awesome group of people and we’re going to miss them. Although, L1 is threatening to book himself in for lessons whenever he’s back in New York, and I will certainly do the same, so we won’t be entirely without our Arthur Murray fix.

Morning Joe, and the MSNBC news team in general. The handsome Ari Melber in particular. These people are a counter point to Trump’s craziness, a reassuring comfort zone of intelligence, reason and facts within the morality free maelstrom that is the Trump administration.

This list is all very well. (And apologies to L1, who dislikes listy sorts of articles). But putting  the list aside, there’s something bigger that we’ll miss. It’s the experience of doing something new and endlessly interesting, and doing it as a couple, without much having to consider anyone else. It has reminded me of being new to London and newly married, living in the first flat that we could call our own. It also convinced me that L1 and I will be alright in our empty-nest years. We won’t be looking at one another across a table and wondering what to say to one another, or worse, wanting to throttle one another. Phew.

We expected to be sad when we actually closed the door on the apartment for the last time, and indeed we were. L1 left a week before I did due to business commitments back in Europe, so we both felt sad in different places. His early departure seemed to me to underline the poignant finality of our NY experience. I’m not going to lie – I had a day or so feeling very weepy and crying actual tears.

But I had to pull myself together because there was stuff to do – more stuff than I’d anticipated. Despite having moved into a furnished apartment, we’d managed to accumulate an awful lot of clobber – books, pictures, small appliances, clothes – that had to be organised and shipped back. Once that was done, I had a fitting send-off in the form of an Arthur Murray competitive dance evening, during which I was paired with world champion Gherman to dance the hustle. You’d have thought that dancing with a world champion would make things easier, what with all that expert leading, but in fact I felt all at sea. Gherman’s hustle style bore little resemblance to the one that L1 and I had developed, and his feet moved at three times the speed. I just about made it through with my dignity intact.

The Arthur Murray gang on competition night – that’s our instructor third from left and Gherman the hustle demon on the right


On my very last night in New York, our dear friends C and I took me out to the very swanky Standard Rooftop Bar, where we sipped martinis while watching a spectacular sunset. We then went to dinner with some people from their building (who, alarmingly, were all under the age of thirty-two) and stayed up far too late, which meant that I was decidedly below par as I prepared to leave the apartment the following morning.


After the doorman came up to collect my bags, I took one last look at the apartment, feeling wretched with heartache, then closed the door and went down to the lobby, whereupon I proceeded to dish out twenty-dollar bills to the various doormen who had played a role in getting my bags downstairs and into the taxi. At least I won’t have to do this anymore, I thought. I certainly won’t miss the constant tipping, and the constant wondering if you’ve tipped enough. Of course, the timing of our departure means that we will be spared the hemmorhaging of cash that is the Christmas tipping season. Perhaps we ought to have put a few thousand dollars into an envelope and given it to the building manager to put towards the Holiday Fund, but we skipped town instead.  What would you have done?


So, this is it folks. The last L2 blog. The last time I’ll have the pleasure of sharing our New York experiences with you all. Thank you for reading, and for writing me back. It’s been a blast.

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Waddabout spring?


L1 had warned me that New York doesn’t really do Spring. You can be catapulted straight from the icy winds of bleak mid-winter into the intense heat and blazing sun of summer in the blink of an eye. Straight from winter woolies to sundresses without even a nod to the light weight blouses and the perfect-shade-of-taupe raincoat you’d purchased for all those in between days.

And that’s exactly what happened this week.  On Monday it was 46 degrees, with a bone chilling wind and steady rain all afternoon. L1 came home soaked through and grumpy, declaring that he’d just had just about enough of  the New York weather. I hadn’t even bothered to go out at all. I was still sulking about having had to leave the dolphins and pelicans behind at Casey Key. Anyway I had two cases to unpack, a shed load of washing to do, and an apartment to clean (Remember that New York dust I told you about? Imagine how thick it was after a month away). I couldn’t have gone out into the cold if I’d wanted to.

Then on Tuesday the temperature soared to eighty, where it stayed for the rest of the week before hitting ninety on Thursday. And with the tropical temperatures came a transformation, as if the city had emerged from its cocoon. People were suddenly smiling and talking to one another in the lift. Having spoken to precisely five people in our building since November, I spoke to five at once on my way down on Tuesday. An elderly woman announced, by way of warning, I supposed,  “It’s very warm out there.” Her husband concurred eagerly. Another woman entered the lift on the fourth floor wearing a long rain coat and with a pile of clothes over her arm.

“Suddenly we’re all going out!” said the first woman.

“Yes! Well, I’m only going to the valet to drop these off for dry cleaning,” said the rain-coated fourth floor dweller. “But it does look fabulous out there. I’m packing up the apartment. And I’m wearing nothing but long underwear underneath this coat!”

Maybe a little TMI, but it certainly broke the ice. The elderly couple were keen to know about the packing up.

“I spend half the year in Rio,” the woman explained. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”

Bad timing, I thought. Just when the tulips are coming out. And the tulips are everywhere. There are red and yellow ones carpeting the grounds of our building, and red and white ones under every tree I pass on my way to Madison Avenue.

Manhattan House Gardens
The tulips on Park Ave


It’s not just the chatty neighbours and the tulips brightening up the place. The streets now abound with pretty Chanel pumps, striped espadrilles, handbags in mellow yellow and cerulean, floaty floral sundresses and chic linen trousers. Fashion, in general, has come out from under its winter duvet. People don’t bother so much in the winter, or if they did, we wouldn’t see it anyway. We all look the same, in our hooded puffa-coats in various shades of black.

The dog lovers are out in force too. Usually it’s just me bending down to say hello to other people’s dogs, but yesterday I saw others doing the same. It’s as if the warmth and sunshine has melted away all the barriers that normally exist between people in this city and softened the stiffness that passes as discretion. People talk in louder, more excitable voices instead of huddling up against the cold. They gesture, look up and around, and smile.

I know that the residents of any country that has a winter will be celebrating the springing of spring. But I wonder if the transformation in people’s moods and behaviour is more marked when the winter is brutal, as it is in New York. I think that in the UK we get so used to the grey skies and drizzle all year round (except for about a week in June) that we just carry on, not much remarking when the weather shifts. In a place like New York, the contrast between winter and spring/summer is so dramatic that it seems to jolt people into a whole new way of being.

In this weather, I no longer want to sit inside Shakespeare and Co, so I’ve switched my writing spot to the open air Pain Quotidien which sits on the shores of the lake in Central Park – the one with the Stuart Little boats. It can be difficult to find a table in the shade, but when you do, it’s bliss.


It wasn’t so blissful in the Arthur Murray Studio on Thursday, where the air conditioning did little to combat the ninety degree heat. Our instructor, (whom I think I once called Louisa, but who is in fact called Jacqueline) took L1 and I through some challenging swing steps that had us both dripping inelegantly within minutes.  My hair was so damp and flat I looked as if I’d been caught in a rainstorm.  It was not a pretty sight. As we left the studio  I reminded L1 that this, of course, was the primary reason I would never be able to appear on Strictly.

But it wasn’t as hot in the Arthur Murray Studio as it is in the basement of our building, where the maintenance guys are stationed. Terry came up on Thursday to sort out a ceiling light that was misbehaving, and I asked him how it was down there in the bowels of Manhattan House.

“No air conditioning down there,” he said in his Irish slash Brooklyn accent. “And we have to keep the heatin’ on because, ya know, it’s going to go down below fifty at night next week. So we gotta protect the pipes.”

“You must be dying down there,” I said.

He shrugged. “We’re used to it. New Yawk is like that –  goin’ from winta to summa in one day. Boom! Waddabout spring?!  It’s crazy.”

I’d felt a little sheepish about dragging him up to attend to a ceiling light that I should probably have been able to fix myself, but then I realised that I’d actually done him a favour. I’d given him an excuse to escape the inferno for ten minutes. And he must have had thirty or forty of those excuses that day, because he actually looked quite fresh in his crisp white shirt. His hair was certainly in better shape than mine had been after an hour in the Arthur Murray Studio.

Also, of course, he could count on the inevitable tip to lessen his pain. After I gave it to him, he positively skipped towards that lift.

Until next time,


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