Sunday, 31 January 2010

Night at the museum

Friday night was the Natural History Museum's late night opening, so Anna, M and I headed down to South Kensington to sip some wine and peruse the glass cabinets full of dinosaur bones, ancient fossils and strange creatures pickled in alcohol. Not the hippest way to spend a Friday night perhaps, but I am still a seven year old at heart, and not ashamed to say that the rows and rows of carefully classified specimens still fascinate me as much as they did on Saturday morning visits here as a child.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

These past few days

Not much to inspire of late. Grey skies, flat light, a daylight that never seems to brighten beyond murky.

But there was visiting a good friend from university in Worcester, where he recently moved for work (how is it that we are all so scattered now? Lots of us in London, sure, but, also, some of us, who used to be just along the corridor, down the stairs, across the courtyard, in other towns, building other lives, working or studying, but we are no longer all together, and I miss that). Catching up, pretending it was all still cups of tea and slices of toast and hours spent trawling videos on Youtube (this is brilliant, gives me a lurch in the stomach that I will never be a student again - see above - but brilliant all the same).

There was the moss on the stones at Worcester Cathedral, and a good morning spent rifling round charity shops.

There was helping another friend build flat pack furniture for her new home, feeling useful and productive to the sound of Sunday morning radio, until I hammered with my left hand ("NEVER hammer with your left hand" M scolds me later) and hit my right index finger, causing a blossoming of blood beneath unbroken skin and sudden dizziness.

There was Sunday afternoon at the cinema with M, the biggest screen in Britain, daft glasses, crackling bags of salted popcorn, blue, six-foot aliens.

There has been the new Vampire Weekend album on my iPod whilst on the treadmill ("It struck me that the two of us could run...") and the first snowdrops from the garden, brought down from Norfolk for me on Monday night by a mum who understands that sometimes it is the smallest things that make these days not quite so bleak....

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Wet Saturday, bright Sunday

A wet, cold Saturday. A foray to Camden Passage where I had never been before, where I ogled the teacups and art deco mirrors, bejewelled clip-on earrings and floral silk scarves, but ultimately didn't buy anything because I know I can find these things myself in charity shops and car boot sales. Rain from lunchtime, heavy rain, that swept across the street, penetrating coats and scarves and supposedly waterproof boots. An afternoon indoors, cheese and tomato toasties and cups of tea, part 2 of Day of the Triffids on the video player. A Brick Lane curry with friends in the evening, turmeric, Garam Masala, chilled Cobras, the warmth of the restaurant to counter the damp cold night outside.

Sunday, bright and clear, more sunshine than I'd seen in days. A walk round the corner to the Wallace Collection, to view Damien Hirst's Blue Series. I like some of them, but find the rest a bit same-y. 'Floating Skull' shimmers in my mind and 'White Butterflies and Roses' is wonderful, huge and contradictory, both dark and cutesy, gloomy and romantic tumbled into one. Photographing the Marylebone rooftops and cloud patterned sky. Nutty hot-chocolates from Cocorino to warm our hands as we wandered round the farmers' market. M headed off to some friends' house to watch rugby, I made a batch of brownies then headed over to join them for dinner. Very impressed, got fed a delicious stir-fry, cooked by some guys who lived off microwave meals for the entire duration of our university life and didn't seem to know what a can opener was, much less a wok. Times change I guess!

Another weekend over, how they seem to fly...

An aside

(Photograph: Gregory Bull/AP via The Guardian)

As I write about my home, post pictures of my things, trivial, really, I am aware of how, in an instant, it can all be lost. How even those starting with nothing, can end up with less than nothing, livelihoods shattered, futures made bleak.

My thoughts go across the ocean to those in Haiti.

Home Sweet Home

Hannah of Seeds and Stitches very kindly gave us a tour of her home last week (see here), and very lovely it was indeed. She asked if anyone else would do the same, so thought I'd share a few pics.

So, without further ado, I present my own home sweet home:

The Living Room

The two brown chairs are a recent addition, my parents bought them from the local auction house in Norfolk and re-upholstered them, I claimed them over the Christmas holidays as they were sitting unused in a room full of boxes. The side table and the coffee table are also both from the same auction house (Gazes in Diss if anyone is wondering). The crocheted blanket on the sofa is not my own creation sadly, but bought in a charity shop for about a fiver. Most of the cushions are homemade from fabric remnants, the union jack one was made using a pillowcase and a printed tea-towel for the London-themed party we had last autumn. And there is even a cushion with a squirrel that I cross-stitched myself (see below). You can just spy the constantly flowering geraniums in the window boxes too. The black telephone is something we had at home when I was younger, and still works even though I don't have a landline at the moment. Thinking of getting reconnected though, purely because the telephone sounds so fantastic when it rings!

Built-in bookcases, which are lovely, but wish there were more as there are so many of my books still at my parents home that I just don't have room for. The top shelf is full of my vintage champagne and Babycham glasses, and the bottom shelf has the glass punchbowl that was a present from my sister (also bought at the auction) and another recent acquisition, a lamp with a china base that Mum found in Oxfam (close up below). It was lacking a shade, but I found one in the John Lewis sale that wasn't too expensive. The Klimt prints on the wall Dad gave me.


The Martini mirror was bought in a charity shop, as was the glass container holding the cotton wool. The silk tulips were a gift from Mum from a trip to France.


Teeny tiny room, but I have brightened it up with images from old 1950s adverts. My collection of Ladybird books also lives here, so one can improve one's knowledge whilst sitting on the loo if you happen to feel that way inclined!


Glass jars for all my pasta, rice, cous cous etc, cookery books in the alcove. The frame on the left has a postcard from the Imperial War Museum, the one on the right is a cross-stitched thatched cottage with flower-filled garden that I found in a Cambridge charity shop. The postcards on the cupboards are also from the Imperial War museum. The radio is a much loved present from M two Christmases ago. And the hyacinths have lasted from my trip to Columbia Road last fortnight! The beautiful calendar in the left of the picture below is from abby try again.


My bedroom is home to my dressing table, which was bought at auction for £40. It was originally a very dark, varnished wood, but many hours sanding it down and three coats of Farrow and Ball paint (in 'String', if you're interested) later gave the end result seen above. In the corner is my Lloyd Loom linen basket, again bought at auction. Below is the nursing chair I have blogged about in the past, it was bought in the auction, and was originally covered in green velvet and tassels, and I had it re-upholstered with fabric from a Multi York seconds shop. It is very low, but useful for flinging clothes onto, or for sitting on when trying to pull on a pair of tights. The suitcases were my Dad's (can you believe he travelled round China with only the middle one - it's tiny!) and the case on top holds a small record player. The frame I found by a rubbish bin on the way home late one night so I took it home with me!

So, that's my flat, hope you like it! If you want to join in, please do so, just stick a link in a comment on Hannah's original post.

Photos taken by both M and I.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The year to come

Inspired by all the lists of resolutions / intentions / goals for 2010 that all you lovely people have been posting, and which I have loved reading, here is my contribution:

1. Use my recipe books more. I have so many and really don't use them enough, other than to drool over the photographs and descriptions. When it comes to actual cooking I tend to fall back on old favourites that I know by heart. Ideally, I would like to cook something I haven't tried before at least once a week.

2. Learn to understand the science behind my camera. I am a bit of a trial and error photographer, and despite M's best efforts to explain what is actually going on behind the lens, it continues to go in one ear and out the other. I would really like to understand what I am doing and why, for moments when there simply isn't time for either trial or error, and for when M eventually goes away to do his research and I no longer have a science-geek to explain things to me.

3. Get the sewing machine out a bit more often. It is getting very dusty, and I really do need to do something with the bits of Liberty fabric that I rather extravagantly bought in the sales two weeks ago.

4. Learn to crochet. Ray and Fay (and a friend's soon-to-be-sister-in-law who crocheted the Reddit alien for her fiance's Christmas present! Totally amazing!) have inspired me.

5. Grow more fruit / veg. / salad in what little outdoor space that I have.

6. Go on more day trips to places that are within 2 hours train ride from London to explore charity shops and tea rooms and National Trust properties. Possibly when the weather is not so glacial.

7. Floss more.

Think that's enough for now, all sorts of other things swimming round my head but I'll keep it simple for the time being. Hope all yours are going well so far!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Not the most romantic present

At work on Monday, discussing the Christmas break and presents from respective girlfriends / boyfriends / wives / partners etc., we work round the room oooing and aaahing. Then they reach me.

Colleague 1: Ooo, so what did M get you for Christmas Rebecca?

Me (enthusiastically): An extension tube for my camera.

[all colleagues look blank]

Me: Well, um, it's like a short lens thing that goes on my camera between the body of the camera and the lens itself, and it turns my lens almost into a macro lens so I can take photos of things really close up....

[blank faces remain]

Me (defensively): It's really cool, it means I'm able to take all sorts of photos I wanted to take before but couldn't.

Colleague 2: Sounds lovely.

When I relay this story to M later he thinks for a moment before saying, "Well, I suppose it's not the most romantic present..."

No, perhaps not, but it was exactly what I wanted, and it sure does allow me to take some pretty romantic photos...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Another decade, another trip to Columbia Road

I will never tire of this place, it is always so beautiful, so colourful, so fragrant in the early morning sunlight. We came away with pots of fat hyacinths and a big bunch of them too, dusky blue and delicately scented as the buds were still tightly closed. They are in a vase on my coffee table and every time I glance over at them, I smile. Strange, perhaps, but coming from a home like mine, with my oh-so green-fingered mother, it would be hard to have not grown up to be filled with wonder and excitement at every unfurling bud or emerging green shoot.

On another green-fingered note, I am very inspired by this blog post here about rooftop vegetable plots, and now can't wait to try grow even more on my balcony this year.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Fresh Start

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I saw in the New Year with friends in South London, at a crowded house party. As we arrived paper lanterns were being released into the sky over Clapham Common, glowing orbs in the darkness, and as we left, in the early hours of the morning, snow began to fall, magical in the orange light of the streetlamps.

We didn't get home until 5am, but I woke to bright sunshine and blue skies and spent a lovely day with friends, my sister and her boyfriend who were all staying with me. Home-baked blueberry muffins for brunch, a walk in the frosty park, scaring ourselves silly watching Turn of the Screw in the afternoon, more friends over for dinner and Agatha Christie's Marple in the evening. A lovely, relaxed day, full of promise for the year ahead.

And the discovery that my new blue silk dress that I had worn to the party and had various drinks spilled onto (it was very crowded) was machine washable and so I wouldn't be starting the new year with a hefty dry cleaning bill.

I can tell it's going to be a good year already.