01/10/2014 14:43 BST | Updated 01/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Notes From a Housesit: Brixton

The weekend before last took me to Brixton (well, down the road in Herne Hill, really) in South London. I was dogsitting my old friend, Otto the chocolate coloured shar pei. Last time I met Otto the Spaniard he and his owners were new to London and had just settled in West Hampstead. It's now several months on and they've relocated South of the river, near to Brockwell Park, handy for copious Otto walks.

I arrived in London on the Friday afternoon and caught up with one of Otto's dads. He filled me in on Otto's new routine, changes in Otto (Otto's got a bad eye, thanks to the mass of rumpled skin there. He's awaiting surgery). Otto's developed a new muscular physique. I can only presume he's been working out to impress the girl-dogs. He continues to look like a child's cartoon of a dog:


Later that evening, back in Herne Hill with Otto, my friend Lindsay popped in to see us both. I've known Lindsay a few years. She's one of the most Bohemian people I know. She tells very, very good stories. Amidst Otto strokes, we waxed lyrical about our feelings on spirituality, the New Age movement and queer politics (we're both LGBTQI people). Lindsay showed me the embroideries she's working on and told me about the book she's currently writing. A perfect chat for a dark evening the weekend of Autumn Equinox. After, more walk-time with Otts.

Saturday, Otto and I went exploring Brockwell Lido. The Otto I met this visit is definitely a more grown-up version of the pup I met last time, though I suspected his eye is causing him discomfort and leaving him slightly less happy than usual. Still, he loves his walks and goes loopy at the scent of other dogs. Indoors, he adopts a more genteel (if snuffly) demeanour, but does bring me his toys to play.

Otto and I in the park:


That afternoon my friend Laura popped down from Brighton to see me and meet senor dog. We headed back into Brixton to indulge in Franco Manca's pizza. (Franco Manca is un-fancy and serves delicious sourdough pizza. It's the best pizza I've ever had in the UK. I'd go as far as to say it beats the best pizza I had in Florence in August). My pizza:


We detoured via Ms. Cupcake's shop. Ms Cupcake is maker of amazing vegan cupcakes. It's genuinely a good thing I don't have a local branch, or I'd probably exist in a state of perma-sugar coma. After, Laura and I headed to Brixton's lovely "Ritzy" cinema to watch "Pride." ("Pride" is based on the true story of a London group of lesbian and gay activists support of the Welsh miners strike). It's an excellent film and I cackled and wept in equal measures. Watch it if you get a chance.

A Ms. Cupcake vegan red velvet cupcake:


Laura meeting Otto:


Me, posing with some Brixton graffiti:


Sunday morning, Otto and I once more roamed Brockwell Lido. Later I caught up with some old London friends. I've known these women since we were giggly sixteen year olds sneaking into clubs with fake IDs. This catch-up consisted of hugs, laughter, stories from married life (my friend Pam - second right in the group photo - is a newlywed) and the search for a filling breakfast in Brixton's uber-trendy cafes.


Post catch-up, I spent more quality time with Otto, said goodbye and began my journey back to Devon. Weekend well spent and shar pei cuddles are always life-enhancing. Until next time, chocolate dog.