ATP World Tour Finals at the O2

Those who read my post on my day at Wimbledon back in the summer of 2014 will know that I am something of a tennis nut, and that it's my life ambition to go to all four tennis Grand Slam tournaments. However, I've also been keen to go to the ATP World Tour Finals, the final tournament of the season where the top eight players compete, but have consistently failed to get tickets. Then an email popped up from a work colleague to go along to Wednesday's evening session and I jumped at the chance!



After counting down the minutes until 5 o'clock I hopped on the tube and sped across London to the O2. There was a bit of queuing to get in for bag checks (twice), but I grabbed a toffee nut latte from Starbucks for the wait and got through security surprisingly quickly. I'm sure I looked a sight getting patted down with a red cup in my hand though...


This was my first visit to the O2 and I was quite surprised by how small it was inside - there were only a few restaurants inside, plus a Starbucks and the merchandise stand. On the other hand, it was good prep to scope out the arena and surrounding restaurants ahead of going to Country 2 Country in the spring.

I stopped off to buy a programme (I always like a programme at this sort of thing) and then headed off up the escalators to find my seat and the rest of my colleagues.


This was on the way up the escalators showing loads of different stats about the O2 and the tournament - how cool is that?!

We were lucky enough to be in a suite as the tickets were with one of our member companies (I won't say who to protect their privacy), and it was every bit as amazing as it sounds. There was a lovely plush box to sit and watch the match, as well as sofas to relax on and a TV screen to follow the action. We could also order food - I didn't because it was quite expensive so had a sandwich before coming out - and there was a bar right outside for drinks.




Not a bad view, I think you'll agree...

We saw David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka; I was a bit disappointed to miss Andy Murray but it was a really exciting match. Ferrer led most of the first set and then suddenly it all turned, with Wawrinka hitting great shots - particularly his backhand - and ended up running away with it the whole thing. I think it was a combination of Ferrer's serve going and Wawrinka using the same tactic Nadal did with Murray of just running him ragged and then steamrollering him. We also saw some doubles beforehand which was really good too.

Overall I really enjoyed my trip to the ATP World Tour Finals. Compared to Wimbledon it is a lot more flash - think dry ice and light shows when the players come out, music between games and heartbeat clapping on challenges rather than speeding up - but it's a brilliant spectacle and a really good night out. If you fancy going to the tournament there are still some tickets for tonight and this weekend available on the ATP website - otherwise keep an eye out for 2016 tickets soon!

Have you been to the ATP World Tour Finals or another sports tournament? Is there one you'd particularly like to go to?

#OktoberFeast at Hawker House

I have been to Munich once and Nick has been twice, and both times we just missed Oktoberfest (and were thoroughly berated for it by hostel staff/tour guides). Thankfully, this year the German tribute to beer and meat came to London in the form of #OktoberFeast, a warm-up event for Street Feast's winter night market Hawker House, which I was lucky enough to win tickets for. So, a couple of weeks ago, I hopped on the Overground and headed down to Canada Water for an evening of tasty food and drink.



After waiting in the queue for about 20 minutes (my top tip for anywhere you have to wait: bring your Kindle) I was safely inside and in the warm, and deciding where on earth to start. It is absolutely massive - even after you walk in and find yourself in the cavernous hall there is another section round the back - so I'd advise getting there early and having a walk round before deciding where to eat.





The event was themed around 'England vs Germany' and, as part of my ticket, I was given a choice of two free beers - one English and one German. I opted for the former (Frontier lager) and, beer in hand, set off to decide where on earth I was going to start eating.



The Camden brewery beer van. I shouldn't love it, but I kind of do.



I like this ranking from 'light' to 'strong' at the American craft beer bar - so often you just get given an ABV and a vague description, so this is really helpful for me to aim for the sorts of beers I like.


The Feasting Menu, with each stall's highlights and a suggested beer to match.




Random statue of a cow. As you do.




Loving the vintage VW campervan at B.O.B.'s Lobster!


Eventually, I settled on Breddo's Tacos for my first stop. I'd seen them last year when they had a stall at Lewisham Model Market, but hadn't managed to sample their wares (this is my thing with street food places: I always feel like I need at least three visits to try everything I want to eat). I plumped for their Smog Rocket short rib taco, with - as the name suggests - ribs cooked in a marinade including Smog Rocket porter, autumn mole and queso fresco. And it was awesome: lovely smoky flavour, juicy meat and a nice crunch from the vegetables to add texture. Good call Laura!


Back out into the main hall to find my next portion...





My next stop was Spit & Roast, which had been on my 'to try' list for ages so I was excited to finally get to sample it. They only had their chicken schnitzel burger left when I got there (another note for Hawker House - get there early!), but it was worth getting. The tang of the sauerkraut and cranberry sauce worked perfectly with the juicy meat and the bun was just the right balance between crisp and doughy. It might be the best chicken burger I've had in London, and that's saying something.



I was on a roll now (no pun intended) so third course was a smoked pork shoulder pizza slider from Born & Raised. Oh my goodness me, that was goood. I'm not normally a massive fan of apple on things but this was perfect - cooked with just enough crunch to balance out the tender pork and the texture of the sourdough base gave it a really interesting edge. If you put a roast pork dinner on a pizza, it would probably taste a lot like this - and that's no bad thing.




Finally, I headed over to Meringue Girls for their Apple Strudel. It was everything I wanted - good-size chunks of apple, sweet but not sickeningly so, and a lovely marriage of strudel with cold vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce (always a winner for me) and meringue kisses. It was the ideal way to round off a lovely evening of tasty food and my only regret was I didn't have enough room - or money - for a second portion.



After all that (and a second beer - Five Points Pale Ale, with a pound off for reusing my stein) I was feeling nicely full so sauntered off back home.

I had a fantastic time at Hawker House; there was so much good food and the atmosphere was bustling yet still very chilled-out. I went by myself but can imagine that if you were there as a group it would be a really fun evening. Plus it's super-cheap - I had four plates and two beers and came away with change from £20 (although granted one of my beers was free with my ticket), which is very competitive compared to restaurants in central London.

Hawker House is now open on Friday and Saturday evenings until 12th December so I'd definitely recommend popping down there for some amazing food and a great atmosphere!

Our Cat Adoption Journey and Introducing Thor and Loki

One of the things Nick and I were most excited about when we bought our house was getting cats. We've wanted one for years but living in a first floor flat near a main road meant that it wasn't really fair on the cat, so decided to wait until we were somewhere a bit quieter and with a garden. So once we were settled in we decided to have a look into the cat adoption process, and I thought I'd blog about it in case it was helpful to anyone else who's planning to get cats or kittens.

We knew we wanted to get a cat from a rescue centre and, as the previous owners of our house had got their cats from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, we decided to give them a ring. They took our details and then arranged a home visit, where someone comes to check that your home is suitable for cats and give you advice on how to care for them. This was all hugely new to me as I've never owned cats before (my dad doesn't like them - I think he must have been a mouse in a previous life or something), but even Nick learned a few things as a veteran cat owner!

Thankfully the home visit went well - though we were advised to get an older cat due to our proximity to the main road - and a few days later we went down to the centre to meet some of the cats.



I have to say I was really impressed with the cats' homes; having been to other shelters I was expecting cramped cages, but these were more like kitty palaces - clear Perspex fronts filled with spaces to climb on, caves to hide in and loads of toys. Think a really fancy cattery and you'll get some of the way there.

After a quick chat with one of the rehoming team, we were let in to the pen of a pair of four-year-old brothers. They took to us straight away and were rubbing their heads on us and coming in for kisses, and we were hooked! We arranged to take them home the next day and decided to name them Thor and Loki (yes, after the Marvel characters).

That was two and a half months ago, and now here they are! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you will have seen loads of pictures of these two already, but here are a few of my favourite shots:
























It's not easy to tell them apart, but Thor is slightly slimmer and has a thinner tail. He also has a small white patch on his chest, whereas Loki is all black.

Both are lovely boys - they were a little wary at first but super-affectionate once they get to know you and love playing with their toys and with us. Loki is the more confident one, always wanting to explore and the first to do anything, whereas Thor is a bit shyer but loves fuss and will often follow me around like a little furry shadow! They both like curling up next to me on the sofa as well, although I think it's mainly proximity to the radiator/laptop...

I also want to give a huge shout-out to the staff at Battersea - it's obvious that they all care deeply about each and every animal in their care and that they want to find them the perfect loving forever home. They were also enormously helpful in terms of giving us advice and all the information we needed to take good care of the cats. I hope the boys are just as happy here with us as they were at Battersea!

I hope this was useful to any wannabe cat owners; do let me know what you think in the comments. If you have a cat, what are your tips for new cat owners?