28th May – Santa Monica/Downtown, Los Angeles, California, USA

I walk to Starbucks for a morning coffee – it’s further than I imagined, would have cycled had I known. It is a totally normal day here in Santa Monica in that the sky is blue, the sun is shining, a man passes by with a lizard in his hands and a homeless lady approaches for a dollar and asks me, “what are you doing?”, I’m reading on my iPad, “reading”, I politely reply. She hovers, I go back to my book. In a flash she leans over and undoes my belt (it’s an aeroplane seatbelt belt) and wanders off laughing. I feel violated.

A bit of rooftop sunbathing with Cholo and I’m heading downtown. I catch up with Simon and Kasia and we go for a pre-movie beer, well they do, I’m drinking soda water so I can drive home after the film. Simon tells us the movie is at 8.50 so we make our way to the cinema for then, only to find out that Simon is somewhat mistaken and the movie Nice Guys started at 8.20! He pre booked the tickets, we can’t change them, so take our seats and try to catch up on the plot!

The film is really good with or without seeing the first 20 minutes! We walk back to the apartment, I say goodnight and drive home to Santa Monica.

27th May – Santa Monica/Venice, Los Angeles, California, USA

Simon and Kasia pick me up this morning. I got up super early and I’ve already had a healthy breakfast smoothie and some porridge with fruit. Kasia and I hang out at Doves drinking coffee. I read while Kasia has her hair done and before I know it Simon’s finishing his shift and I’ve spent the whole day reading!

We go for a late lunch at Venice Whole Foods. I enjoy people watching. A bleach blonde wearing tiny daisy duke denim cut offs, a cosmetically enhanced pout and Ugg boots carries a tiny puppy inside to do her weekly shop – can you get any more LA?

Dropped home I take Cholo for a walk and knuckle down to some serious rewriting. After dinner I watch a bit of TV and fall asleep on the sofa. Then go to bed.

26th May – Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA

I sleep in following a terrible night’s sleep. Then cycle to Doves in time to grab some Thai food for lunch with Si. Gagging for a coffee I run across the road to the Urth Caffe and end up in a long line, when I eventually join Simon he’s nearly finished eating.

When he goes back to work I sit on the Dogtown patio with an iced coffee and a slice of banana bread listening to the LA locals talking. I could eavesdrop all day. I hop on my bike and ride home via Broadway picking up a postcard to write on the rooftop. The sky is blue and the sun warm so I do what I do best – tan.

Simon and Kasia call and I join them while they eat at Mendocino Farm. I opt out of food as I have an Equinox yoga class at 7pm. They drop me off at Equinox after dinner.

I’m a little intimidated at the gym, Santa Monican’s are so visibly fit and I am, for want of a better word, weedy at best. Basis for my anxiety however is unfounded. The kind staff at the front desk offer to look after my belongings as I don’t have a locker as a complimentary pass holder, the yoga teacher is totally chilled and the class itself is not pretentious, as I had imagined, but really relaxed and informal. We listen to upbeat music and get yogaing. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it seeing as I haven’t done a class since Sydney and the hour and a half flies by. I leave with a spring in my step.

On my walk home I stop off at Vonns supermarket for supplies as Joe’s fridge resembles old mother Hubbard’s. I buy too much and struggle to carry the shopping bags home. I shower and prepare pasta, then slouch on the sofa for the evening.

25th May – Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA

I walk to Swingers for a yummy fried egg sandwich, filled with bacon, avocado and tomato, served with breakfast potatoes – it is a big plate of food that I tell myself I’ll never eat, but of course do!

I make my way down to 3rd street promenade to top up my phone, then walk along Main to meet Simon for a coffee. I sit in Dogtown with my latte waiting for Si to break for lunch when I notice a familiar lady a few seats away. It takes a minute for the penny to drop but it is Alison Lockhart from The Affair, the to series Becky and I binged on back in Sydney. She’s eating soup and keeps catching me gawping. If she hadn’t been chatting on the phone I was going to tell her how much Becky and I loved both the series and that we were hoping there would be a third, and of course ask for a selfie, but alas she left still talking on her mobile. Embarrassing fan moment averted! Simon and I have a coffee and when he goes back to work I write on the patio.

When my coffee is done I stroll to the beach where I find a nice solitary spot and bask for a few hours in the sunshine writing some more. I’m so lucky to be on this beautiful beach watching the world go by with the Santa Monica pier funfair in the background.

When I’ve had enough sun I walk to the pier and then onto Equinox for a healthy smoothie from the gym’s cafe. The Equinox gym is full of fitties, and as an eager fit wannabe I decide to ask about membership in the hope that I’ll get a complimentary pass. What I wasn’t anticipating however was the job interview style one on one meeting with a membership officer. A tour of the four storey super gym completed I leave with my 3 day pass and vow to start yoga classes tomorrow.

I walk home and do some reading listening to Joe Djing in his office. When Simon finishes work he picks up Joe and I and we all have dinner at El Cholo’s restaurant just a few blocks away. cholo the dog was named after this place. I have a bowl of tortilla soup and Plato de carnitas (the waiter’s recommendation) roasted pork, avocado relish, escabeche onions and nopales. It is massive, but yet again I polish off the lot!

We finish the evening, in typical Joe and Simon style, at Bodega. The glasses of wine are huge. Simon leaves as he has to drive back Downtown. I sit and chat with Amar, a Bodega regular who hails from Mumbai via Manhattan and now LA. We talk Indian food. Filled with wine Joe and I walk home and I go straight to bed exhausted.

24th May – Santa Monica/Downtown/Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

This morning I get a very exciting text from Simon – “Universal?”. We’ve been talking about going since the day I arrived and today we go.

Very recently Universal has opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it’s advertised everywhere – on buses, on tv, on the radio. Kasia and I are particularly excited with good reason, it’s bloody brilliant. Hearing the Harry Potter theme tune pumped through the speakers is enough to give us goose pimples. We enter Hogsmeade with it’s wobbly chimneys and snow topped roofs, all of the staff are dressed as wizards and amongst the crowds we spot the smiling Bellatrix girls and the testosterone fuelled Durmstrang boys, a choir of singing frogs on pillows, butter beer is sold from a huge barrel. Diagon Alley with its familiar shops, the Squeaky Cauldron and Zonkos. We pass the Hogwarts express train and high in the sky the towers of Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry can be seen. We queue for the new Harry Potter ride before the park gets too busy where we fly around Hogwarts following Harry on his broom. Then we ride the flight of the hippogriff rollercoaster before queuing for the Ollivander’s wand experience where we witness a chosen tourist get chosen by their wand. We eat lunch at the Three Broomsticks, indulging in the very British fish and chips.

We spend the afternoon exploring the park. We ride on the Mummy rollercoaster in the dark, fight Megatron on the Transformers 3D ride and get wet on the Jurassic park water ride.

Back at the downtown apartment we eat sushi and watch tv until I start getting tired and drive back to Santa Monica.

23rd May – Santa Monica/Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

Eric has very kindly leant me his Audi while he’s vacationing in Italy. I’ve agreed to meet Simon at DNA’s storage unit to help clear out and move to a new unit. Getting there however is proving difficult as I have to contend with a new driving experience. Eric’s car is a stick shift, which is fine, but as I’m in America the stick is on the wrong side, plus I’m on the wrong side of the road, plus I have no idea where I’m going, so rely on the Waze app announcements that are instructing me through my phone, which my Mum is trying to call me on! I miss turn after turn, but eventually arrive unscathed!

We spend much of the day lugging DNA’s long forgotten storage (much of which is Christmas decorations) out onto the parking lot to be sorted before loading onto the truck Danny has hired to move the stuff across town to a cheaper storage facility. Where, between unloading, we play at surfing on the trolley dolly.

Once our manual labour volunteering is over we drive to Hollywood for some Thai food, then onto Hugo’s apartment to finally view the footage from Palm Springs golf filming day. It is so good. Very professional. The drone footage is dramatic and Kasia looks amazing. While Hugo edits we pop to Ralph’s for smoothies and on our return he has created a short promotional clip. I’m fascinated by the editing programme he uses, heightening the colours to make the greens and fairways pop. Very impressive.

Back in Santa Monica Joe and I go out for dinner at Bodega. We take his new Chevrolet truck, that Simon has named triple T – Tourtelot’s Tiffany Truck. It is so cool, newly refurbished and turquoise. We drink wine and eat at the bar. I meet lots of the staff that know Joe and Simon really well for their years of patronage.

At home Joe gives me a glass of red in a science beaker. I had noticed a dozen of these on the kitchen worktop and wondered what they were for, for a minute I thought perhaps Joe was cooking crystal meth Breaking Bad style. In fact they are for drinking wine. Apparently science beaker glass has no impurities and so is the best glass to drink wine from! Tastes good.

22nd May – Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA

Santa Monica’s Sunday Farmer’s Market is the best place for people watching. It is a beautiful Los Angeles day and I have ridden the bike down here to Main to mingle with the masses. Free bike valet means no struggling with the bike lock. Before I choose what to eat I explore the plethora of food options moseying around the stalls tasting with my eyes the farmers wares.

I opt for a breakfast wrap as the banner above declares they come with “everything”. Sometimes being overwhelmed with options can put you off a menu, I like that here the decision is out if my hands. If I’d thought this through properly I would have purchased a coffee first but instead I balance my wrap in its paper tray while I attempt to fill my paper cup from the huge drum of “black gold”. I search for a seat and choose to sit on the wall with a view of the warbling Elvis impersonator who entertains the crowds.

People loll on the lawns, dance in the sunshine, meet friends, walk their pink dyed miniature dogs, browse, buy and enjoy the day. The Farmer’s Market has a real mix of customers. A lovely lady with a six month old dangling in a papoose sits next to me. I can’t help notice that she too has chosen the same breakfast wrap as me. “It’s really good”, I tell her as I pop the last delicious morsel in my mouth. We make polite conversation and relish in people watching.

After a final lap of the market I collect my bike and continue on Main to The Coffee Bean. Sitting outside I slurp their famous vanilla iced blended and watch the world go by before strolling across the road and down to the beach. Everybody is enjoying the glorious sunshine today. I haven’t brought any sunscreen and the hot sun threatens to burn so I make my way back to the bike and head home.

Up on the roof, now slathered, I bask.

The rest of my day is spent relaxing on Joe’s giant sofa, that is about the same size as my apartment back in Cardiff, with Cholo.