Exhibitions

I always seem to see exhibitions all at once – and then nothing for ages – but there is so much to see at the moment. All the exhibitions are so very different, some poignant and full of messages, others showing the dark side of the artists’ personality, and some just portraits. I find that paintings that are pretty or nice to look at with no obvious message can be criticised for being frivolous – for me art can be so many ways of self expression – it shouldn’t be judged whether its serious or not. Art is there for everyone to appreciate – we all have our own tastes….

Louise Bourgeois ends tomorrow; in intriguing mix of art pieces – some very dark and abstract, some feminine with a twist, some delicately put together with pretty textures and shades. Her personal life experience obviously had a great impact on her and this is very interesting to see. The Hayward Gallery is the perfect space to show her work.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are beautifully painted stories about fictitious people, either from found images or from her imagination. They speak identity and representation and are colourful and almost graphic in style – at Tate Britain. I particularly love the characterful clothes.

Also at Tate Britain is Walter Sickert, which I absolutely loved – dark, mysterious, his images of naked women in Camden are challenging and must have been controversial at its time; he liked to picture everything theatrical from performers in music halls, individuals from the newspaper articles – he definitely liked to paint real people at work.

Whistler’s women in white is romantic depictions of women dressed in white, and especially the model Joanna Hifferman. her red hair went onto influence the pre raphaelites and their style of portraiture – at Royal Academy. wildly romantic and ethereal – I too have taken to wearing white dresses …..

At the Whitechapel we can revisit the artists studio from 1920 – 2020 – an interesting curation of works from lesser known artists to Picasso, Schiele and Bacon. its celebrating a century of image makers and artists through their studio. Some are actually painting in their studio, some are actual mock ups of their studio – its a loosely named theme, but is an interesting mix and gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of artists in one exhibition.

Postwar Modern at the Barbican brings together an amazing display of paintings, sculptures and photography from 1945 -1965. This is an incredible body of work put together – and introduced me to some amazing artists and photographers previously unknown.

There is so much to see in London at the moment; its definitely inspiring looking at the real paintings – we recognise so many of them from postcards and books, but actually seeing art in life is the best thing. Purchasing a national art pass allows you to visit galleries at half price, so if you are going to see a few, it maybe worth it. I now buy a gallery membership for my friends’ birthday presents, it gives them so much pleasure to be able to visit freely, so worth putting on your birthday list.

April feria

I am so missing visiting spain with its wonderful traditions and colour. its about this time in Vejer de la Fronterra that the annual  april feria occurs 10 days after Easter.  Easter, or Semana Santa as it is called in Spain is such a big occasion , more important than Xmas, with its evening street procession carrying the statues of Jesus  on Good Friday and  Easter Sunday bull run in the narrow streets, it is a sight that you never forget. The feria, that follows is a mini version of the seville feria, which if you have never seen is just spectacular, horses and carriages,  flamenco dresses and full of colour and splendour;  vejer’s feria is held in the new town, which is only 15 mins walk from my house, but mainly consists of a few casitas (tents for eating drinking and dancing) and an enormous fairground!  but for 4 nights there will be numerous flamenco shows and horse riding events.   the local school children clamber on their floats and there is a procession through the old town to the new town – there are so many festival days in spain, you need to check the calendars before you go so that you can watch them – there is a feria in almost every town in spain at some time of the year – its what makes Spain a wonderful country still steeped in tradition and fun.  sadly due to the pandemic, it will have been more than a year of disruption – so I am not even sure what celebrations will be happening;  I am so hoping that by the end of the year, life will resume as it used to be……

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Easter eggs

I always remember these eggs that talented artist Mary Mathieson, made for our ilovegorgeous shoot several years ago.

Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 698
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 482
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 487
Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 685_1

Easter is a Christian festival and for Christians the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. The first eggs given at Easter were birds eggs. These eggs were painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift. We still paint bird eggs today but usually only chicken eggs.  my daughter loves to paint eggs, but you do have to be really gentle or they will easily break.    you need to pierce a hole at either end blow out all the liquid inside the egg, use for scrambled eggs, or bake a cake!  then perch your egg on a barbecue stick or on a chopstick and paint with acrylic paints.  you can always thread pretty ribbon through the holes and hang them – they look pretty cute. 

Southwold Pier

i love piers, there is something romantic, dreamy and nostalgic about them……

I am lucky to have Southwold so close to the cottage – its the perfect seaside town with its long sandy beach, beach huts and pier, fish market and harbour, plus a sprinkling of good restaurants and shops.   I hope to get to the cottage a lot more in 2020;  you can rent it directly through my website limeblossom cottage. 

I recently discovered the little neighbouring village of Wangford, hidden from the A12, its a tiny village with a great grocery shop and pub, the Angel Inn.  Suffolk is full of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Rye

now that Robert is working at weekends, we have decided to explore parts of UK that we have rarely visited. we asked a friend for a recommendation of a hotel and ended up at the Gallivant on Camber Sands. Typically the weather was grim, grey, cold and drizzly, so we first headed for the ancient town of Rye – a very pretty town, up and down steep cobbled streets. we parked by the quay and ambled around the street. I have never seen so many gift and vintage shops in one little old town – the good thing was that there were no chains on the main street.

my favourite were Merchant and Mills, an emporium of cottons in so many colours and patterns, it really made me want to get my machine out and learn to sew. They also sell so many useful gift ideas, such as little sewing kits, great array of scissors, and lovely patterns to make workwear style clothes.

I bought some lovely vintage towels from Soap and Salvation, a lovely old chapel selling a mix of vintage and craft style objects; there are a great church beeswax candles from Puckhaber and handwoven rugs and baskets from Rae. Also delicious hand made chocolate from Rye Chocolates we ate lunch at the Fig, nice and healthy. there are a lot of places to choose from, so it depends how you feel on the day. Mermaid street is a lovely old street that looks like a film set – one tip, don’t wear heels whilst walking around, the cobbles were difficult with boots on as quite uneven.

Gallivant hotel is a 10 min drive away, right by Camber Sands – a short, but steep climb over the dunes takes you to the vast beach. The tide was out when we arrived, and there was the typical film crew on the beach, but it really is a beautiful sandy beach

Its worth a drive to Rye harbour, watching the boats come in – there is a pub there to grab a drink and a bite to eat, strangely selling Greek food, rather than fish, which is what you would expect. you could get fish and chips. Just 10 mins away is Westchelsea beach – a pebble beach, but much easier to reach from the roadside.

its definitely a great day trip out; we stayed the night at the Gallivant, where the food was very good, dinner and breakfast. I even managed to do an early morning yoga stretch class – there are 2 daily classes plus and meditation walk on offer. Its pricey, but I think that all hotels in the UK seem highly priced at present; Jeake’s House looked quite quaint in the old town of Rye. it really is a breath of fresh air, taking you away from the despair that we seem to be surrounded by at present.

how time flies

I cannot believe how fast time flies – it was just a little over 6 months since we moved out of Camden, leaving a house after 26 years is hard to get used to, but now that we are finally in our new apartment, it seems so long ago. living in temporary accommodation whilst organising building work is not at all grounding, but it does prepare you for the big transition from a large family house to a 2 bedroom apartment, especially if you choose a place that is smaller than your final abode.

I thought that we had been quite ruthless with our packing, throwing out things that we didn’t need, but now that we are finally unpacking the many many boxes, I realise that I was not at all thinking how much we had to reduce our possessions. I know that they are only things, but its hard to let go of memories, souvenirs, photos, but I have had to be a bit more practical. why I thought keeping years of invoices, bank statements, old cards was something I would need, seems ridiculous now that most things are available digitally. I have managed to keep a few boxes of momentos though…… isn’t that just what cupboards are for.

we were quite fortunate that the buyers of our house bought quite a few pieces of our furniture and most of our lights and fittings, stuff that we knew wouldn’t fit in the new apartment, meaning we only had to purchase 2 major items, a dining table and a sofa and of course new lights.

last week was our 27th wedding anniversary, and I have always wanted to go to the highlands in Scotland, and we finally made it. we stayed in the beautiful Fife arms set on the banks of the River Dee, which was incredibly comfortable, a little bit over the top with the Scottish decoration theme, but the service and food was very high standard and the village Braemer was incredibly picturesque with the biggest skies and morning sunrises that just take your breath away. we managed to fit a lot in 3 days, including a visit to Ballater, Burn O Vat in Dinnet, and a mountain ride up to the peaks of Inverey and the lake of Glen Muick …. I thoroughly recommend a short break in Scotland, especially if you love nature, rivers, layers of mountains and forests; winter was actually beautiful, deserted, bleak subtle layers of grey and warm brown, you felt that you were actually within the contours of a map. It was cold, but if you take enough layers and wrap up warm, it makes returning to the open fire of the drawing room of your hotel such a pleasure.

buying gifts is such a difficult thing….

what to buy each year becomes a dilemma – here is my list of what usually works for most of the family.

  1. curzon  cinema vouchers or membership to local cinema, could be any of the lovely independents that are around ,  2. tate, v & a membership or any gallery subscription – older kids seem to have preferred the Barbican, which also gives you discounted access to the gallery and cinema, 3. ticket or gift voucher to the theatre, maybe somewhere unusual like Wiltons or Sam Wanamaker theatre, 4. daunts book voucher or again any local bookshop, 5. anything from aesop, 6.  anything from the wonderful art shop cornelissen 7.  food gifts from la fromagerie ,Lina stores or my favourite Italo in Bonnington Square , 8.  jewellery from Tidy Street, Peppi Taylor or  sweet pea,, 9. ceramics from ceramics 274,  at the moment, I love Japanese bowls from Sway gallery 10. candles from cire trudon or Tom Dixon’s fab new shop 11. a treatment from the Cow Shed, my husband got me a voucher last year for my birthday and the pedicure was pretty amazing. 12. of course there is a night’s stay in a hotel somewhere in the countryside, and there are so many lovely hotels to stay in and one extra – a course in ceramics, a language, drawing or just about anything – there are so many courses on offer at city lit and the neighbouring adult colleges.

Robert and Alfie’s favourite shop for classic  men’s clothes with style,  visit  J.Simons  shop on chiltern street –  it brings together a handpicked selection of American, Continental and British brands, classic loafers, harrington jackets, jeans and even includes a few vintage pieces – perfect if you want to find your male partner or friend a gift.  i love the pendleton shirts!  you go in there wishing that they did the same things in womens sizes.

struggling to find presents for men, go along to the aesop shop in soho – their products are all plant based, high quality and specially made to benefit the skin and absolutely smell beautiful. last year i bought a foaming shaving balm for my husband with a steel dish for him to whip up the foam with his brush – he is very old fashioned and still likes to wet shave.  a lot of men hate bits and pieces, collective memoirs, so finding something to buy them  can become a bit of a challenge.  a guess this means that you have a limited list;   here are a few places that i know robert will always be pleased to receive from  -any products from  kiehls,  scarves and silk handkerchieves from peckham rye, vintage books and out of print books  from the numerous antiquarian book shops on cecil court, poetry books from  daunts, I still think that they have the best choice of books, and the re issues of classics such as Agatha Christie and Dickens are so beautifully presented that they can be the start of a collection, travel notebooks from smythsons – you can even have your own initials embossed on the beautiful leather covers, margaret howell for vases and accessories , rapha for absolutely anything cycling, brooks for classic cycling bags,chapmans for classic bags.

alfie has now gone from the great basic uniqulo boxers to the supremely quality cotton boxers from sunspel – their cotton is just lovely.

pop up sales

i still love this community of pop up sales – a different venue, new artisans and creatives coming together to bring an atmosphere of warmth and passion sharing their crafts and products. its a million miles away from internet shopping or bland shopping centres. Ros and Sarah have curated a lovely event. there are two coming up, one in Batcombe Somerset on the 11th and 12th November and the other in Brixton on the 20th and 21st November 2021. its a great time to catch up with what small producers are making, treating yourself and buying Xmas presents – dare i even mention that word……..

I will be showing my cards, ceramics, some watercolours and a few vintage bits and bobs….

moving house

It’s taken many years, uhming and ahhing about whether to move or not, and somehow lockdown managed to persuade us that we didnt need a big family house any more. I guess spending time amongst all your things and being more at home, really ingrains how much stuff you possess. Don’t get me wrong, I was very lucky to be in the house during the pandemic, having space, an outdoor garden, even small was a godsend, especially as 2020 was a sunny warm summer, but once winter drew in, we had made up our mind that it was time to leave after 26 years and allow another family to grow and enjoy the space, create their own memories and have their own adventures. Mine have now grown up, Maude being 22, she is still the baby of the family, but already enjoying the wide world out there.

Although you usually have at least 3 months to prepare for the moving out process, one doesn’t actually start properly until you have exchanged; as we had had one buyer pull out close to exchanging, we really didn’t want to accept that it was actually going to happen until we had exchanged – in this case, that gave us just 2 weeks to pack. So I totally underestimated the amount of work physically and emotionally packing up a house;  5 floors of stuff that tell stories from 5 different individuals…. I tried to refrain from opening each file, each book, each box, but curiosity and human nature beat me to it and so by the last week, I was literally throwing things in boxes to enable the move.   Strangely once you start dismantling your space, it becomes less and less your space, devoid of your family, friends and personal trinkets, it becomes another box, an empty shell to make your own.  I definitely have now separated myself from the house, just seeing the vastness and endless floors as more and more work.   I have to admit that I did shed a tear on the last hour walking around checking the cupboards and nooks and crannies.  

As we have to refurbish our next home, moving was more problematic, as most of our stuff had to go into store, some work stuff went into a local store for easy access, some went to both my older children as they were moving into new homes, and a lot went to charity and the dump! it definitely made life easier employing a company to deliver boxes and packaging and help on the day with packing and carrying. its definitely money worth spending.

We are temporarily living in a 2 bedroom flat, a quarter of the size of the house, but strangely it’s just enough for us both.  I guess we are realising that we have now entered a new phase of our life, cleansing and reducing, living more simply, it’s a breath of fresh air and a weight of our shoulders..

We look forward to the next chapter of our lives; downsizing enables you to clear any debts and mortgages, help the children a little but mainly it allows you to rethink your own life and what you need and desire.