05 December 2013
I turned on the TV for the news when I arrived home tonight to hear the news that Nelson Mandela died today. It's hard to know what to say that won't be said elsewhere so perhaps we can just pause and think about what we have learnt from this man's life about grace, dignity and the power of reconciliation.
04 December 2013
A sweet friend texted late in the afternoon to say he had a spare ticket for the panto this evening at Hackney Empire. Would I like to go? Yes, I would...
Bright, loud, local, jolly, a small and enthusiastic band, a decent dame, sweets thrown into the auditorium, lovely frocks, tap dancing (I love tap dancing), the very best chorus for the audience sing-song, an excellent Puss with a Jamaican accent and winning ways.
I do like a cat in a panto; and an advent calendar.
03 December 2013
He was singing right at the back of the Lidl car park. I couldn't work out where the sound was coming from at first, then tracked it to a scuzzy corner, discarded beer cans scattered on the ground along with the other detritus. A large buddleia was growing in a small share of land between the car park and a new building, and there he was as high as he could get, and he didn't stop singing until I got a little bit too close.
It was a competition of sorts I soon realised, because in the lull I could hear the other robins on the other side of the canal singing along.
Don't be fooled by the background - that car park is a bit of a dump but the music is still sublime.
02 December 2013
Go to Greenwich to pick your three ships and you'll be spoilt for choice. They are everywhere. You can choose those with names. Go for the Cutty Sark tourist option.
Admire Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle.
Or walk through Turner and the Sea to see his interpretation of the Victory and the mayhem of Trafalgar - why did I not realise that the sails would be torn to shreds by fire and cannon? Or the spectacle of the nation's favourite Fighting Temeraire being towed up river, with a degree of artistic licence. Then make your way to the last couple of rooms and be blown away in a breathtaking mini-storm by the little colour sketches with their merest suggestions of ships.
I may even have been at all at sea when I saw them.
01 December 2013
On our way out of the Maritime Museum, we came across a small golden oak leaf on the stairs, brought in somehow from the park outside. It was so delicate, it's a wonder it survived at all under the heft of people passing up and down.
27 November 2013
I'd been thinking all summer about a green skirt that Salley Vickers' Cleaner of Chartres had worn, and found one in a charity shop, only to surrender it to a lady who had bent down to pick something up and looked devestated when she rose up and saw that I had picked it up off the rack. But around the same time, Kate wrote a post about her boiler suit which also struck a chord because I too love a bit of a workwear.
|And with indoor stock coat*|
It turns out that the Factory Dress is an excellent dress for labour, around the house or on the allotment. For going out on the town - ha! -it is not quite right, at least not for me, though others here and there have fared better. It may be that because the pattern was a size smaller than my usual size it needs to be adjusted, at least made longer in the waist; or maybe I'm just more used to a more fitted style; or perhaps it's just inevitable that a dress made from an old gingham curtain might make you look like you really do work in an factory or institution. Overall (sorry) the dress seems to work much better with sensible mary-janes and black hose, so a second attempt might be in order with a more drapey, woollen fabric. I thought I might get round to it in time to participate in the Wovember challenge to complete a woollen garment, but alas not - that jacket I started in September has taken its toll of my spare time with its tacking and catch-stitching, silk organza smoothing and sheepy-smelling hair canvas pressing.
There must be a moral to this lengthy tale but I've no idea what it is. Yet.
26 November 2013
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I gave up the day job was this: get up, get washed and dressed right down to your lace-up shoes every morning before you even think of doing anything else. The advice came from the most organised woman I know, and she got it from this website. I dislike this website with a vengeance for being so bossy and goody two shoes, so much so that I can't bear to mention its name. Mostly I dislike it for being so very right. I come from a family with a father who disappeared before sunrise and never returned until way after sunset and a mother who always saw us off to school still in her nightie. Even now I can call her at 10 or 11 o'clock and she will tell me that she's not dressed yet.
It's not good. Even when I come down, as I do every day, to a waiting cup of coffee and a bowl of porridge, time just seems to slip through my fingers if I don't have those proper shoes on before breakfast. This has been what has been happening more frequently over the last few weeks, starting insidiously at first with the occasional lapse put down to the temperature, and building up gradually. The diary I have been writing since January so I could keep track of time has been sitting in all its jolly redness on the bedside cabinet, unfilled apart from a note of what I have been reading. And as for the blog, well the routine is all but broken. Resistant to opening the laptop to avoid being waylaid by emails from Toast, Bloglovin and the quick crossword, the day rolls on into other obligations. Then once the light has faded, my eyes have to work harder in lamplight despite new specs and our unheated bedroom, just warm and bright enough to read, is no longer conducive to composition.
I fear these are all weak excuses. Sitting comfortably as I am now in front of the fire, one cat waiting patiently for supper, another sitting by the radiator, the half-painted kitchen (walls and ceiling: tick; everything else to do) a reminder of my indolence, I know that there is only one reason for this laxity. I don't get up in the morning and put on those lace-up shoes first thing.
11 November 2013
Apologies to all. Halloween came and went and the following day I waylaid my niece, who incidentally had been a cat the night before, and asked her to pick a name out of the cauldron for the giveaway. I wrote to the lucky person, posted the book, and got her reply saying that she loved the book. And I've only just remembered that I didn't tell you. Shame on me.
Congratulations Annie! And thank you all for being such good sports.
Congratulations Annie! And thank you all for being such good sports.
29 October 2013
A little while back artist Kate Murdoch suggested that I might be interested in the Guardian's 'This is Your Photo' project in collaboration with the Photographer's Gallery which was at the time collecting pictures of mantlepieces. The idea was to "
21 October 2013
"Rafe says 'This house always smells of apples'.
It is true; Great Place is set among orchards, and the summer seems to linger in the garrets, where the fruit is stored. At Austin Friars the gardens are raw, saplings bound to stakes. But this is an old house; it was a cottage once, but it was built up for his own use by Sir Henry Colet, father of the learned Dean of St Paul's. When Sir Henry died Lady Christian lived out her days here, and then by Sir Henry's will the house devolved to the Mercer's Guild. He holds it on a 50-year-sub-lease, which should see him out, and Gregory in. Gregory's children can grow up in the aroma of baking, of honey and sliced apples, raisins and cloves. He says 'Rafe, I must get Gregory married' 'I'll make a memorandum' Rafe says, and laughs."
Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel, 2012, p 137
I loved this book, and imagining Thomas Cromwell in a house in Stepney scented with apples gave me great pleasure. All that remains of those orchards are maps and place names, so we went to Kentish orchards instead and tasted all sorts. My friend was very impressed at how many apples I could fit into the two-bags-for-a-fiver on offer. The trick was to choose the smaller ones, and then eat them down to the stalk and the pips. It rained most of the day, so we were too damp and lazy to make a note of what we stuffed into our bags, but a vague memory and a quick squint at the national collection website confirmed that my favourite was the Zabergau Renette, the russety apple speckled with red at the centre top of the basket.
It's not all good news for apples however. I was utterly dismayed to hear on the news that 40% of the apples sold by our largest supermarket chain are wasted. Joanna's thoughtful post on "the power of free" suggests how we might avoid waste and make good. Clearly more places need to be filled with the aroma of baking, of honey and sliced apples, raisins and cloves. Or parsnip and apple soup, celery and apple salad, apple sauce, chutney. I'm thinking apple crumble tonight to go with supper, just for a start, or maybe an apple cake or two. I need a few more ideas though so...
I'm also thinking maybe it's time to spread a little urban making and baking love. A little while back food writer and allotment holder Jojo Tulloh came to our WI and I bought a copy of her book The Modern Peasant with the specific idea of sharing it. It's not a glossy modern baking book, but a more reflective exploration of how city dwellers can make the best of what's available locally, including growing our own, preserving and fermenting. You don't have to live in a city to enjoy the book. Some of the text might make you wince a little (did we need to know, Jojo, that you parked your bike in a mews etc?). But its heart is in the right place and the recipes are for everyone who might want a little food adventure.
Here's the deal. If you'd like your name to go into the basket to win a copy of the book, leave me a comment with your favourite apple recipe suggestions, with links if you can because we might want to make it. I'll leave the comments open until 30th October and publish the winner on Halloween.