wedding anniversaries

well, its our 23rd wedding anniversary today, and i have to ask myself some serious questions –

1. where have 23 years gone , 2. have i really stayed with one person for that many years and 3.  how do i make the next 23 years as full and as interesting as they have been?

i tried to look up what was significant about 23 years of marriage,  i dont really stick to the recommended list of what to buy to celebrate a number of years – 23 years is silver plate so not that significant – you get to silver on your 25th year, pearls on 30th and gold on your 50th.

so happy anniversary darling –  you have really made my life so wonderful and memorable.  here is robert’s favourite place – el palmar beach, our local beach in spain.


E5 bakehouse

I finally made it to E5 bakehouse – friends have brought me bread from there and I have known about the bread making courses for a while.  housed in 2 neighbouring railway arches next to London Fields, its a little of the beaten track, but everyone seems to know about it as it was a busy hive of sit down coffee and cake, late breakfast, lunch and lines of people buying their breads and cakes to take home.  at least half of the vast space is dedicated to actual baking bread – its great to sit amongst the sacks of flour and stacked crates of bread and watch the machinery at work.  artisan sourdough bread seems to be all the rage – I am so glad because my favourite food is a crusty piece of freshly baked bread with jam.   not sure if they do gluten free bread, so sorry for all you gluten free folks.

just around the corner is Bonds – also serving coffee its a stylish gift shop selling candles in jars (made at the premises), lovely scissors, incense and other gifts, including my favourite perfume Maya Njie.   you can also see in the back room preparation for a candle making session – what a great gift idea.

a short 10 min walk away is Wilton Way – a strip of independent shops, including the lovely Japanese run gift shop Momosan – beautiful stoneware ceramics exquisitely wrapped soaps, beeswax candles and lovely jewellery – it nestles amongst cafes, the restaurant Pidgin, a vintage dress shop Retrouve.  Another short walk through london fields takes you to the ever busy broadway market which just about has everything from gifts, food, basket wear, speciality teas  – you need a few hours there to explore it in depth.

farmers markets

i love all the new farmers markets that are springing up everywhere – they seem to take place in all kinds of spaces.

In whitstable there is a fortnightly market in St Mary’s hall, which helps to support the local farmers, selling anything from the local kent berries to home made condiments. The Goods Shed in Canterbury is a daily farmers market with onsite restaurant too.  there is the wonderful altrincham market too, but check their websites for opening hours, as it can change.

London has Borough Market from Weds to Saturday and has the most amazing array of food, drink and vegetables. Its a perfect day trip to buy your food and also have lunch at Borough – its probably one of the biggest farmers market and you will want to savour all the delights on sale. And of course there is Bermondsey market on a saturday. On Sunday there is a small farmers market in Marylebone, just behind Waitrose in the car park, selling cheese, bread, meat and vegetables. there is also the wonderful Broadway market on a Saturday, food, gifts just about everything.  apparently there is a good farmers market at Alexandra Palace, which I haven’t yet visited – on a Sunday. On sat from 10 – 2pm, there is a farmers market in the car park of William Ellis school just on Parliament Hill, which has a selection of essential produce – many of them coming from Borough Market, you can get great sausage sandwiches whilst you walk round, so get down there and support your local community farmers market.  Isnt it good to pay a bit extra for quality and keep that small company going, rather than shop at another tesco or sainsbury ?

I have lived in camden over 20 years and now that we have our own independent green grocers on parkway it makes me so happy that I can just pop in and choose 2 courgettes, or 3 apples and 1 leek, without having to buy family size packets.

Florence 319001Apr2014_0071


it may sound a bit dull, but monochrome art at the national gallery is quite interesting – it traces very early works that use black and white, or just one tone, rather than several colours – sometimes one part of the image is emphasised by just picking out in black and white, so the term ‘monochrome’ is quite varied.   personally I love monotone images, I love colour too, but there is something melancholy and timeless when there is less colour – it leaves more to the imagination.   there are a lot of well known artists works in the exhibition worth seeing.

ways to help the community

last year I discovered another inner london stable – tucked just behind brixton tube – ebony stables – what a wonderful thing for the local community – situated next to wyck gardens, it offers local children an opportunity to ride horses, see how to look after them right in the city centre.   its so important to keep these open green spaces for the community – god help us if these all get destroyed for more luxury apartments!  we are already losing libraries, fire stations, town halls – if they were turned into social housing it wouldn’t be so bad, but lets not lose our green inner city spaces.   its what makes london so unique and a great city.

I was introduced to the stables through the Baytree Centre, who organise summer day outs for local girls – I have been volunteering for the last 3 years for this project – encouraged by my daughter who mentors there  – the Baytree Centre helps women and girls with extra after school studios, mentoring to enlighten and encourage the minds of the children – the message being that you can do anything in life no matter what your background.   all these projects are only possible by the help of volunteers,  you only need to commit to an hour a week, so if you want to make a little difference, there are lots of projects in all areas that need volunteers – I had no experience at all, but you soon learn what makes the girls happy.  all these projects are amazing additions for the community.

And now during the day Baytree  helps young girls who have arrived in the country, but are waiting for school places –   this week there were just 3 girls, one very young with a new baby, but their ability to speak English is very varied;  our aim is to teach them more English, and this weeks task was teaching them how to tell the time.  it sounds so easy, and its something you take for granted, but actually a lot of people can only read digital time, and trying to explain about how many minutes to and past the hour is quite complex.  its all a challenge, but one that you hope makes a difference.  Baytree are always looking for new volunteers – you only need to commit to an hour a week and it is so worth it.

a bright cold day in Suffolk

I love going to the seaside in the winter – the sea and the landscape changes so dramatically with the seasons;  the wind beats the waves into angry turbulence, the grasses waving frantically from side to side – you just have to wrap up and enjoy the fresh air – its quite exhilarating.  we visited Sizewell beach for the first time and despite the blustery cold conditions, the sun shone, the sky was blue and we were taken with its wild landscape, the nuclear power station at one end, the huts and boats at the other end.  also close by is Leiston Abbey, definitely worth a visit.

we also discovered a lovely gallery in Yoxford,  Rowe & Williams, selling local works and some ceramics, definitely worth a visit.


i have noticed that my friends and family are now giving me ‘experiences’ for presents rather than physical gifts – i am loving the different surprises that have been arranged for me – from nights in hotels, to massages and theatre trips, they are great memories rather than acquiring more stuff.   this week, i treated my friend elise for xmas to a night in her favourite hotel – the titanic in liverpool!  the roomiest, coolest hotel that i have ever been to in the UK.  its a short taxi ride from the tate gallery, but situated right on the docks and housed in a converted warehouse – one of many that line the once busy docks of liverpool.  you can always find a deal, check their website for advanced offers – the spa is a heavenly treat too – but what is nice is to spend some quality peaceful time with an old friend without having to cook, clean or deal with children and pets.

if you have time pop into the tate  – london isn’t the only place to have important art!  stop to eat at ‘the quarter’ in the beautiful georgian area around hope street,  for a bite to eat or just for  coffee and cake, and then a must see stop are the 2 opposing cathedrals – both architecturally amazing in their own right.  if you have more time, take the 15 min drive to Crosby beach to see ‘another place’ by Antony Gormley – a series of life size cast iron figures set along the beach seemingly entering the sea.  there is definitely a revival for Liverpool – am really enjoying the programme about the history of a Georgian house in Liverpool , fascinating social history- catch it on player.


incidentally this opening shot of my book ‘stolen glimpses’ is from the window of Tate Liverpool.