paris

a march weekend is a perfect time to visit Paris – especially as we managed to purchase the £52 offer  on eurostar together with the  advent of spring and warm sunny skies.   Paris looked as beautiful as ever, but without the busyness of other months.  you have to watch out for the offers, but they are quite frequent and if you are flexible about dates they will always be available.

this time we tried another smaller hotel, hotel des saints peres  – ideally situated in st germain, it fulfilled our needs, though wasn’t exceptional – we will keep on searching…..  we popped into the bar at l’hotel – which has been recommended to us several times, but thats more pricey, but it did look more opulent and bohemian.   the surrounding streets of st germain des pres – rue de seine,  rue de bac … are all great window shopping for furniture, antiques and unique independent shops.  its why i love paris for its wealth of individual shops – areas dedicated to fabrics, or shoes, or even door knobs – if you avoid the bigger streets, you will not find many of the usual chain shops that you find in london. note that little paris shops shut on sundays and mondays, but window shopping suited us well.

for beautiful inspirational clothes, i still love the Dries Van Noten shop – his forte are prints and this years designs hark back to  japanese flowers with the hint of the kimono and the mystic east.  just visit the shop to feel inspired – each collection influences the look of the shop interior, this season there is definitely a nod to victoriana with intricate lace, embroidered velvet and chiffon collars as well as the orient. of course it was hard to resist and i treated myself to a beautiful pair of off white wide trousers …..

paris is a city for walking – aim for a gallery or a restaurant or just an area – wind your way through the streets, taking in the wealth of street cafe life.  we always seem to find ourselves lost – but thank goodness for google maps! we ate very well this time – sometimes a bit of pre planning helps, as eating out is not that cheap, but if you choose carefully, its affordable.  most restaurants offer a menu prix fixe – which means that you can usually get 3 courses at a reasonable price and usually its whats in season that day.   we ate in La Ferme Saint Simon, described as japanese/French fusion, but it was more typical french, La Petite Chaise, apparently the site of the oldest restaurant in paris, quite charming and delicious  – in just one room and we lunched at the wonderfully atmospheric Chez George  – probably our best meal of the trip – but this doesn’t open on a weekend.  i totally forget how tightly packed the tables are in parisian restaurants!  we ate thai food in madame shawn, in the up and coming Canal st Martin area – pop into the Hotel du Nord for a drink – its where the artists used to visit.    we also stopped for a coffee at the very atmospheric le petit fer a cheval cafe in le Marais – take a look at the back restaurant, so wonderfully unspoilt and unmodernised.   we also dropped in for a drink at the popular bar /restaurant la Palette   where the cheese and ham sharing plates looked great quality.  another restaurant we want to try is le Rubis but again not open at weekends.

artwise we visited the Picasso museum, but disappointingly found that only 2 floors were open, due to the instalment of a new exhibition of olga;  and a visit to Cy Twombly at the pompidou left me pondering whether i enjoyed the graffiti squiggles on large scale canvas – I always quite liked them in books, but seeing them so large made me wonder.  they are definitely unique – but i much preferred his  beautiful poloroid still lives.

so here’s to my next visit to paris, probably in another year…..

 

sainsbury centre

after all these years of intending to visit the sainsbury centre of visual arts, i finally made it.  luckily yesterday felt like the first day of spring, which was an added bonus.  i took the train to norwich  and was picked up by my friend Elli;  we ate lunch in the very healthy vegetarian restaurant ‘wild thyme’, then made our way to the infamous centre for the arts,  which was designed around 1974 , the Sainsbury Centre being  the first major public building designed by the now renowned architect Norman Foster.   although its over 40 years old, it still feels so modern – somewhere between an aircraft hangar and  oversized shed – it houses the amazing collection donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury.  i didnt get to see all the collection properly, as we had specifically gone to see the Japanese photography exhibition, including works by Araki and the intriguing Hoscoe’s portraits and to stay for the interesting talk about kimonos and their inclusion in Japanese art through the edo period 1600 – 1800’s by Anna Jackson.  what was very surprising and intriguing were the drawings of early erotic Japanese art showing sexual encounters wearing the elaborate kimonos.   the ground floor of the gallery houses the highly recognisable works of Degas – the beautiful bronzed ballerina, Bacon and Chillida – an incredible collection of art, and this floor is free to see and wander around.

the roomy and lofty cafe overlooks the gardens that adjoin the university campus – its a lovely day trip,  i notice that Paul Nash is next on – i missed this show recently at the tate, so i am definitely going to take robert to see it – the surrounding Moore sculptures and the Denis Lasdun buildings – both his favourites.

spring flowers

i love this time of year when the bulbs are pushing through, carpets of flowers change the landscape to bring colour everywhere.

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O were my love yon Lilac fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring,
And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing!
How I wad mourn when it was torn
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d.

O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa’;
And I myself a drap o’ dew,
Into her bonie breast to fa’!
O there, beyond expression blest,
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night;
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest,
Till fley’d awa by Phoebus’ light!

Robert Burns 1793

international women’s day

its seems apt to post another one of my guest writers today – as its international women’s day, who can be more inspiring than my friend Debra Bourne – as she quietly goes through her days challenging and progressing the rights, needs and feelings of the female, she is forever dividing her time, spirit and good sense amongst all her family and colleagues.  deservingly she has just been publicly rewarded – read her fine words.

IWD

If there’s one day to celebrate the arc of female accomplishment, it’s surely today. Wednesday March 8th 2017. The 118th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Although technically speaking, Woman’s Day didn’t become an international affair until 1911. Inspired by the prior activities of American socialists, this was the first time that over a million women from Austria, Demark, Germany, Switzerland amongst other nations, signed up to the strategy to promote equal rights for women, including suffrage. Having participated in London’s spirited Women’s March earlier this year, even after a hundred years of activism, there’s still a whole heap of issues for us to address and improve upon.

I love and respect men, but I deeply love being a woman. Equality and the respect for difference have always been incredibly close to my heart and as a founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk (www.allwalks.org), which challenges the industry’s dependency on unachievable body and beauty ideals by promoting diversity in fashion;these values remain pretty central to my life today.

So that said, before any further ado, please may I encourage you, whether you are male or female to sit back, relax and grab a cup of tea before taking a moment to truly appreciate either yourself or any of the wonderful women in your life: Mothers, sisters, friends, daughters, grandmothers, role models or simply generous strangers. Let’s give it up for the multitude of acts; big, small, heroic or tedious, (in my book, tedium particularly warrants some love), that have touched your life over the year.

At this point, I’d like to share my appreciation for my dear and longstanding friend, Christina, who as the creative energy behind this gorgeous blog invited me to write this piece. In addition to both working in creative-led industries and sharing a mutual love of modernism, design, ceramics and photography, we’ve been close friends since our children; Maude and Johnny were three years old. Now, with our kids in their eighteenth year, I continue to admire Christina’s tremendous thoughtfulness, generosity, many talents and impressive time-management, juggling skills. Thank you Christina for your love and friendship.

The qualities of friendship, solidarity and feminism strike me as both distinct and somewhat interwoven. Love, trust, harmony and respect; all values at the heart of true friendship are core to the spirit of solidarity, albeit that the context is societal, rather than personal. So how do we express our values as women in society? In our many roles? And in return, how does society value us?

These questions are clearly too big to fully answer here, but they flag an invitation to share one of rules that I personally try to live by. I respect that you may not share my belief here, but taking a lead from the classic proverb, “charity begins at home“ which points to a person’s first responsibility is to the needs of ones own family and friends”, I feel its crucial that the first celebratory pit-stop on the road to a fulfilled womanhood begins with a responsibility to meet my own needs and find time to celebrate myself.

To know ourselves. Trust ourselves. Love, accept, pleasure and respect ourselves, as women, whether that be physically, emotionally or mentally, may sound like a simple and vain task, but in reality it’s a frame for a lifelong, conscious commitment.

Valuing ourselves as women is a serious business. If we don’t take ourselves seriously, then who will? Let’s not dismiss our dreams as dizzy ideas, but pursue them doggedly. To practice a path of self-love passionately, might even safeguard our bank balance. Given that some say that today’s psychologically astute society willfully targets and exploits female vulnerability for immense commercial gain. L’Oreal Paris was ranked the worlds number one in 2016, worth a record breaking, $13.69 billion. Not exactly small fry.

Rather than fear aging, our years of accumulative experience contributes to a reassuring sense of self-knowing. When we arrive at a place of true female maturity, our secret gift is not a puerile self-absorption but a wise liberation and deeply sustaining self-confidence that removes or significantly reduces the need for other people in our life, to be holding an affirming mirror up and this is immensely empowering. Each of us has the potential to become a well for our own wise-womanhood. We just have to willingly choose to drink its water.

Through my work in education or campaigning, I am often faced with younger generations of women who’ve feel inadequate and anxious. They have mistakenly given the responsibility for their self worth, fulfillment and general happiness, over another entity, whether that be a significant other, a partner, a job or a powerful cultural force like celebrities the fashion world or pornography. In addition to its’ role in marketing and selling clothing, fashion is a powerful carrier of messages about our bodies, our identity and self- esteem. An area of wider impact that it’s not generally keen to take responsibility for. As a global authority on appearance and taste, the fashion industry has the power to seduce way too many young women, particularly those intent on relating to such a reductive and literally superficial version of their womanhood, by prioritising appearance and an external sense of self. Without any attention to the beauty of inner growth, it’s no wonder that the fear of ageing, even in ones twenties can be the cause of such consternation.

I can’t help feeling protective over our young women. I want them to give them an helpful pointer. Having psychologically dethroned their mothers, as most of us did, during the required separation space of adolescence, many teenagers will step out into the world looking to become their very own ‘different from their mum’ woman. Disguising their financial interest in these adolescent consumers, fashion brands are particularly sophisticated at shape-shifting, morphing itself continually and pertaining to be the oracle of female happiness. “Come over here and we will tell you what it means to be a woman.” Aside from the occasional editorial gems, freely giving valuable insights, conditions generally apply; namely economic ones. And whilst the promise of happiness and attraction is proffered, It is essentially available if you are willing to endlessly subscribe to: do, buy, groom, eat, not eat, change and wear the following…and this list is the short version.

Compliance with dedication might buy a short shot of feel-good female status but not for too long. It’s in the commercial self-interest of these self acclaimed authorities on womanhood aka the fashion, beauty, diet, or even fitness industries, to swiftly adopt ever-changing trends and enthusiastically re-instruct you with new and improved rules that potentially bind you in dependently maintaining a lifetime of perfecting femininity.

Don’t get me wrong, I can love fashion, it was my industry for over 25 years and I know its power to magnificently adorn the female form. Fashion can be fun. However, it’s not fun when it’s at the expense of ones’ autonomy. Fashion can be a great tool for self-expression, but again, it’s a concern for the emotional vulnerable among us; Those who ask the wrong stranger for directions and whilst seeking self-validation, unconsciously fall prey to its’ demands. This is why, amongst other reasons, I enjoy spending my time, in whole-heartedly encouraging women to not give their power away and walk tall and savvy.

So without wishing to deny International Women’s Day of any of its’ valiant remit, whether that be female empowerment, international protest, political activism or addressing other global urgencies that touch all our hearts and lives in some way or another; I invite any women who have graciously stayed with me to the bottom of this page, to take a quality chunk of this 118th, IWD day, to stop, value and deeply appreciate the woman under your own nose. She is unquestionably worth it and not because a billion dollar brand says so. Use International Women’s Day, to begin an intimate relationship with our best friend – Yourself. Once your well is full, sure, go conquer the world and stand in solidarity, but please, do not advance from Go, without taking a deliberate dose of self-loving kindness to quench the thirst of your own being. In the name of solidarity, please offer a drink to a sister. Then, my friend, the world is most definitely yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

amazing women

i love that all my girlfriends have changed their careers and now are amazing therapists – nutritionist, osteopathy, pilates, hygienist, psychotherapist and now acupuncture – i get to learn more about natural therapy and am treated to more alternatives to standard medicine!

i have seen sarah a few times recently and she has definitely helped with my sleeping patterns – i seem to suffer from insomnia quite often.   recently she helped me with tension headaches that emanated from my neck.  i have to admit, i was always scared of needles and acupuncture, but she is so intuitive and gentle and has a complete knowledge of the harmonious that she has completely put me at ease with needles.

claudia is an intuitive cranial osteopath – her gentle hands are not only healing but restorative – i have never quite understood the science behind cranial osteopathy, but it really does work.  definitely recommended if you have had a fall.

i love that women are not challenged by anything – dont ever think that you are too old to start something new!  i was inspired by the fact that Julia Margaret Cameron started her photography career at 48.

another friend Caroline is a homeopath, who often runs short courses on basic homeopathy for children – its a great reminder of remedies for everyday ailments and emergencies  that are appropriate for all the family. .

i love dunwich woods, the barks remind me of needles.

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tomorrow is international womens day, so make it a day for yourself, treat yourself, take time for yourself and remind yourself that nothing is unreachable – set your goal and believe me you will get there – it just needs determination, want and a little bit of effort.

this week i started experimenting with ink washes – it takes a bit of time to get used to how the ink dries and sits on the paper, but its a lovely medium that dries almost instantly.   you just have to take the plunge and experiment, its hit and miss, but if you dont like it, you can just throw it in the bin and start again…