29 March 2009

the princess slept....

Ever since I came across this tower in Charterhouse Square a few weeks ago I have been unable to get out of my mind the song that accompanied a game we used to play at school, one where we all stood round in a circle and sang our way through the Sleeping Beauty story ... "the princess slept for a hundred years" and so on. I think it struck a chord because I have felt over the last few weeks that I have just woken up from a long winter sleep as the days have been lengthening and spring uncurling. That and the memory of actually acting the part of the Belle au Bois Dormant in a school play where I had to wait sleeping for the handsome prince to come riding by.

Those school games and stories have a long and lasting influence. They instilled a penchant for towers and castellations, reinforced by living so close to the Tower of London I suppose and frequent escapes into my own fantasy world. On holiday with my cousins aged around 10, we stayed in a small bungalow with mini castellations on top of a "cliff". It was thrilling. The cliffs were modest but I felt that I was living in true Enid Blyton style, the bungalow offering the possibility of escape and adventure rather than the more punitive incarcerations of fairy stories.

Neverthless, towers still hold a fascination. In one of our recent walks across the Borough, we went back to see the building where we first set up a permanent home. Keeling House was designed by Denis Lasdun to create vertical communities. It did not quite work like that when we lived there - yes we did talk to each other when we were waiting for the lift, but other than that we led a private life on the tenth floor of our beautiful tower. And in spite of the beginnings of disrepair which led later to the building being sold to private developers, it was a high spec, well designed, comfortable, bright, light space with a spectacular sunny south facing view and not a hint of incarceration. I loved it.

I wonder if it counts if princes come riding by on push-bikes rather than horses.

More towers to come.

earth hour

We celebrated Earth Hour yesterday with a candelit indoor picnic. Good food, good company, good music without the threat of rain. An impossible sound quiz - that we won . Chocolate, reusable cleaning cloths and Fentiman's lemonade for prizes.

Cheers, Sorella!
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25 March 2009

violet, alkanet, alexander

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember the lovely bank of alexanders on a slice of waste ground on Cable Street that appeared on my banner and my dismay when they were all cut down. Well, guess what. On that scrubby debris, a whole bank of violets has appeared growing amid vetches and grasses and sticky bud.

It was John who first found them when he was on a hunt for discarded pieces of York stone to make our allotment path . This is an activity verging on obsession, let me tell you, but one which is often fruitful, or flowerful in this case. There is alkanet too among the rubble, thriving in the limey soil.

And alexanders to sustain us through to Easter.

Down the road, the peeping fig has disappeared, just like the bike. But good things happen too.

24 March 2009


A few weeks ago I bought myself a Big Sticky Pad from these lovely people hoping that it might galvanise me into doing some of the long list of things that have been piling up on my desk and in my head.

Bad things have been happening. For a start, someone managed to steal my not-very-old-and-quite-expensive bike from my back garden, a space I stupidly thought was safe. The cats got fleas. The insurance was due. My library book was overdue. Blimey, it comes to something when owing £3.40 in avoidable library fines is more irritating than having to shell out hundreds to cover all those other bills.

Anyway, I've managed to tick off four of these things, five if you count sewing a button on my boy's trousers. I also managed to do some more rewarding things - make a daffodil card, a simnel cake and a pot of tea for my mum.

I cheated and used ready made marzipan, and I forgot to stick it under the grill to toast the topping so it looks a little pale. Even so, it was a fine cake, a very fine cake indeed.

I have now got over that library fine and other irritations and normal service has been resumed.

16 March 2009

home, hold, contents, yours

A couple of weeks ago a couple of us went to the V&A to see the hat exhibition. - it was Friday late on the theme of Home Sweet Home, loads of workshops, films, talks. We joined in the workshop inviting us to collage our idea of home in words and pictures on a postcard. You could leave your finished work, with a self addressed envelope and the organisers then sent you a randomly chosen postcard created by someone else. Mine arrived this weekend, and it's a beauty, now sitting on the mantelpiece.

My thanks to Laulan. I got a good deal.

15 March 2009

could it be?

Up, as Mr Pepys would have said, and to Mudchute, the first time I have been to the allotment for too long. Warm enough to sow lettuce and rocket and beetroot and chard and salad greens; and to bring home rocket and mizuna for a Sunday salad. Soil turned, paths edged.

Yes it could.

09 March 2009

there is beauty in the city

I've been walking round for the last few weeks with a little magnet. It's part of a project initiated by Anna Francis that I first read about on Felix's blog. You have to find something to stick the magnet to when you uncover your beauteous treasure and snap it.

Old favourites appeared. I looked out of my bedroom window at a Hawksmoor Church for years (before the recent prettifying by English Heritage) so no surprise perhaps that the shabbiness of St Alfege's in Greenwich should attract the magnet.
The delicate elegance of the legs of one of the donkeys posing on Blackheath probably captured my imagination because of London Fashion week. Or maybe the fact that I have always fancied an alternative career as the owner of a fleet of donkeys on a sandy beach.

There's homage too to John's mission to beautify schools across the borough, the detritus from plane trees notwithstanding, with his dry gardens.

And just one of thousands of modest little gardens, this one tucked away at the foot of a block of flats near the Regents Canal, hemmed in by a rusty fence and filled with lovely green hellebores. .

There's plenty more beauty in the city. The problem now is I've lost my magnet .

08 March 2009

starting small

I realised that if I was going to start sewing again I had to start with something small and this was just about right for me.
Dolly and dress available here.

06 March 2009

funny peculiar

You know that "because it was there" thing that inspires explorers and mountaineers? That must be why we decided to take the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal, the new end of the line on the "other side of the water". That's the same Woolwich Arsenal where the football team was born, the team that plays at Highbury. Not to be confused with Millwall, who play at the Den in South London, not at Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. Or Leyton Orient which is anything but oriental.

I digress. We wanted to walk to Charlton House, past the Artillery Museum in the Rotunda, (we skipped it - I've done my time there already) and on through Ha-Ha Road. Actually, I think that's what I really wanted to see. Not so much the Ha- Ha (which was a bit dull, even by my standards) ...

... but the road sign.

Charlton House was a gem. Not just for its bricks and chimneys and arches, but the green men, and gardens and, in part of the house, what must be the most civilised local public library in London.

In the grounds you can see the first mulberry tree planted by order of James I in 1608. Poor old tree -the wrong kind of mulberry for feeding silkworms - propped up and spiked by railings, it looked painfully old and gnarled.

Unlike the plane trees on Barracks Field, clothed in sympathetic camouflage, or the feathery magnolias in Greenwich Park.

Pepys used to walk from Woolwich to Greenwich." Funny, that.

05 March 2009

a host of ...

Spring arrived in Trafalgar Square this morning. Paper daffodils. Blu Tack daffodils. (mine is in the middle). All before 9 o'clock.

Made me smile all day long. Meanwhile, back home...

OK. Your turn. Daffodils. Any medium.

04 March 2009


I just love it when meandering through weblinks -in this case via Emma's blog - bring you to to something that excites you. This is all relative of course. I know that not everyone would be quite so taken with finding that it is the UN's International Year of Natural Fibres.

The discovery coincided with some mental meanderings because I had been thinking about jute and string and the stringing of hops that goes on this time of year. I once lived for several months - long ago- on a hop farm in Herefordshire and winter was the time for making the giant balls of string used in the hop gardens. Two of us worked in a drafty loft, me in a donkey jacket and fingerless mitts trying to stay warm, using antiquated winding machines. The skeins of jute arrived pressed together in huge pressed bales (you can see some in this film) and you had to place them on the winder and through some deft shifting of a lever and some mechanical magic the machine would transform the jute into mega-string-balls.

I see that jute may be on the up and up because of the interest in natural fibres. Well, I'm always keen on a nice sack or two and best string. And if "jute producers and processors have made very limited innovations in production and processing technologies" it may mean that someone somewhere has just spent the last couple of months making balls of string for hop gardens. And if they have, I want to find them.

01 March 2009

matters of the heart::3

I know that I've mentioned before the notion that as we wind our way through the city from one place to another, we tend to take routes that have some kind of emotional resonance for us. I came across the idea in a novel, but try as I might I can't quite find the title or the author. As I've moved into another year of blogging, I've realised that there is not only a certain cycle to what I do - sowing, planting, walking, eating - but also to the places I choose to go, visit and see, and the paths I take to get there. Some of these are everyday journeys - to my mum's, or work - and others are simply places that I want to visit again. This wall is at the bottom of the chalk cliffs on the walk between Broadstairs and Margate, a location well documented in snapshots taken years ago on one of our seaside outings. I had quite forgotten about it until one of the pictures turned up last week.

I realise that these preferences may result in some repetition here and I can only apologise for that. I was surprised, for example, at how often walls turned up in my blog and I mentioned this to my brother - only to be expected, he said, if you live where we live. That was some consolation, for there are some walls I am very fond of - these specimens on the east side of the Regent's Canal ,south of Old Ford Road; and a recent discovery on Old Bethnal Green Road, where two walls meet underneath a railway arch, the space between colonised by (Hart's Tongues?) ferns

Colette recounts the story of her brother's going back to hear the sound of a gate creaking only to find to his disappointment that it has been oiled and the notes lost . I went back once to capture the scent of a stone ledge opposite the block of flats we used to live in. In the sun it used to give off a dusty, baked smell. The ledge was there, but the scent gone.

So I've decided that I'm going to have to make a bit more effort. Take in some new places, find some new paths, create some new ones. Should be fun.