25 June 2012


:: a fish and chip summer at my friend's beach hut waiting for a rosy sunset.  We were more than happy to make do with a muted grey sky and washing up in cold water.  And indigestion for me for being greedy.

:: spinach and lettuces going to seed before they've even been cropped.  Did I blink when the sun came out for a day?  And will the courgette plants look happier now the wind has died down?

:: at the Edible Garden, cupcakes baked in half and orange, salad with mallow flowers, a new outdoor bread-oven made by the intrepid Anna who cycled from Sydenham with bricks in her bike trolley.  Pretty amazing.

:: the last day of term at upholstery, a celebratory lunch in the sunshine, and home with my drop in seats and the footstool-of glorious- beauty that I can't stop peeking at to make sure it's safe from cat-clawing. I have so enjoyed the whole process of learning how to use tools, stripping grubby old pieces of furniture, rebuilding layers of fibre, wadding, horse hair and hessian with knots and needles and twine to create items of texture and comfort, all in the company of funny, helpful, industrious women (and man) who a couple of months ago were strangers and now feel like friends.

:: a few days respite from whatever pollen it is that makes my eyes itch, my mouth tingle and my body yearn for snoozing.

:: coming home from the pub tonight in the warm night air and suddenly sniffing the sweet scent of a jasmine hanging over a garage wall. Possibly the loveliest treat of the week.

19 June 2012

golden leaves

Over the dull windy days last week, I passed several times the new work of art made by Rachel Whiteread on the front of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.  Each time I went by I was immensely cheered by the tumbling golden leaves, Whiteread's signature impressions of the windows below, the gold overlaid on the existing frieze.  It is utterly lovely.  Apparently inspired by buddleia as well as the existing Tree of Life design,  I like the way too the gold links back for me to the time when just along the way Black Lion Yard was full of jewellers shops.  I remember being taken there as a girl one December afternoon to buy a gold charm.  My mum's wedding ring came from one of the shops there too.  All gone now - the yard, the shops, the gold.  Now we have these Whitelchapel leaves instead, rain, wind or shine.

16 June 2012


Poppy seedheads, originally from school garden

Looking back, I notice that there is a poppy post almost every year around this time. It seems I can't help myself.  The colours, the delicate shape.

More poppies, West Ham allotments

The instructions for this afternoon's "refresh your wardrobe" embroidery workshop at Fabrications said to look around for inspiration and images before we turned up.  That was easy enough, then.

Machine embroidered poppies, back garden

Poppies all year round now, from seed to flower in two and a half hours.

Materials: Dull black skirt, charity shop; rough cut scraps of silk tie fabric; orange and purple cotton thread; sewing machine with darning foot; expert guidance and rapid rescue from Laura Lees of the Mighty Stitch; sweet company of other women; bananas for sustenance from Gemma.  (Shoes and other accessories, model's own.)

15 June 2012

food stories

Down at Abbey Gardens they have been celebrating their progress in creating the most wonderful community gardening space, building on the history of the surrounding Abbey ruins.  The lovely Lydia invited us to contribute to the quilted picnic rug, each square a plate of food with a story attached.  My contribution was a plate of toms, cut from some screen printed fabric* I made last year and embroidered (ha!) on to the plate.  The fact that I dearly love a tom is a joke in this house and used as an excuse for my frequent theft of sweet little tomatoes, or larger helpings of summer salads.  When I was a child, tomatoes were one of the few vegetables I would eat when nothing green other than the occasional cos lettuce leaf ever passed my lips.  There is a certain irony that now the best tomatoes I grow are made of fabric as I am totally hopeless at keeping control of tomato plants. While my allotment neighbours have regiments of upstanding tomato plants, mine run out of control, rampant, inadequately supported, shockingly neglected.  No little red hen me; my love of the tom clearly only extends to eating them.

The patchwork picnic rug is growing into a lovely piece.  Lydia was sewing it together last weekend and telling me her stories.  The rock buns she must produce at each committee are there, padded with glittering currants; the blackbird with an immense mouthful of sequinned worms that was seen one day, a peculiar benefit of this rainy summer. There are chilies, artichokes, runner beans, squash, apples, strawberries, chutney, sunflowers and sandwiches - all with their own stories behind them.  It is a lovely celebration of growth and sharing and optimism.  I shall be finding at least one more food story to share, maybe more.  What would yours be?

* I saw a frock somewhere this year with a similar print, though cannot remember where.  Now I wish I had made more.

13 June 2012

visiting the queen

In fact, he goes off to visit the queen every Tuesday night at his beekeeping class.  Five queens to be precise, in each of the hives that sit on the school rooftops.  He comes back with tales of drones and workers, queens and princesses. Of how hard the summer has been with some hives across London collapsing, though the ones on the school rooftop are thriving.  I hear about the Isle of Dogs bees flying across the Thames to Greenwich Park to collect pollen - they missed the horse chestnut this year because the blossom was out but the bees were still sleepy with the cold; the excitement of trying on the beekeeper suit; the beekeeper's calm confidence around the bees, and how in turn this relaxes them. And how it is the whole hive that is the organism, not the individual bees, working in an orchestrated way, the original co-operative.

Above the old Co-op building, Bow Road - I love this!
Now, when I look across the allotments to the plot opposite, full of phacelia, love in a mist and pink knautia, alive with the buzziness of bees, I wonder how far they have come, what their honey will taste like, and whether it is remotely possible that one day there may be honey for tea from the rooftop bees for us.

12 June 2012

from the aquarium

We were in the kitchen a couple of days ago and John observed that it was like being in an aquarium.  Rain splattered on the back door and there was a continuous dripping from mulberry leaves, to fatshedera, to york stones.  The sky was grey but the light was reflected back into the house from the rain drops on the ferns and ivy along the garden wall.  In fact, the young ivy leaves glitter so much, even when they are not wet, that it's hard to take any photographs.  It's only at the bottom of the wall, where the bricks are grey and sooty, that the light is a little more subdued though even there the self sown (spawned?) ferns and bracken shine back.

I love the way that this narrow strip of wall has grown into a garden entirely on its own terms.  It is, simply beautiful, full of pattern and shape and all shades of green.  By the time winter arrives, the older leaves will be dusty and sticky with spider silk and the larger ferns will gradually turn brown and then disappear until spring comes round again.

We thought we might lose our wall and with it our narrow ferny garden border.  It may not seem much to some, but with space and light at such a premium this was a most unhappy threat.  It can rain all it wants because it appears it will be staying after all.


03 June 2012

the weather today

Did I mention that there has been a lot of thinking about and making cake round here?  No, thought not.  My offering for the WI cakestand at Battersea today was in line with the weather.  I was inside a tent most of the day working with some lovely women on the cutting of a thousand slices of cake, then got soaked on the way back home.  Happy enough though,  rather like the corgi.  Happier still now I've had a hot bath, a glass of Pimms and a slice of home-made chocolate cake.

Hope you're smiling through the holiday weather too.