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.

festive things to do in london

things we have done the past few years at xmas that are lovely to do;  one xmas eve Robert and I went to the charles dickens museum –  its a fun insight into the writer’s life, especially if you are interested by the writer.   there are portraits of the family, the writing desk that dickens used to create his famous novels,  his personal book collection –  and even personal artefacts such as jewellery.  there are characters from the book that keep you entertained as you walk around the house, making it more fun and engaging for children.  after reading his biography by Claire Tomalin my interest in dickens was born – not only does it tell the story of the author, but it vividly describes a london of that era.    not only is it a great educational eye opener, but an opportunity to see the inside of these wonderful london historic houses.

usually on xmas morning, whilst Robert is cooking, the kids and I  usually take a walk to the top of Primrose Hill – unless its absolutely pouring with rain, its always good to get that winter’s fresh air and the view from the top of the hill is always a stunning picture of London. we must make use of the wonderful parks that London has – they are our treasures.  this year will be very different for us, as we are in the midst of moving Xmas week – bad timing, but I am guessing that we will be taking a walk on the beaches of Suffolk. 

on Boxing Day, I  last went to see Little Women with a girlfriend –  its a good time to go and see a film, and although you can practically catch up on anything on digital now, how lovely to be in a proper cinema with silence and the big screen.  we just recently saw West Side story, which I think is fun, colourful, and a great remake of the classic.  also Boxing Day is not usually   a busy day …..  I know that there is another worry with the new variant, but we went last saturday evening and it was quite spaced out and not at all busy.  All these places are really trying to make it safe. 

i know i tell you every year, but its always a lovely xmas treat and could be an idea for a gift, but for a great insight into 17C london life, you must visit the  fascinating  dennis severs house in spitalfields.  they have a special ‘spirit for the christmas’ season for this time of year, but check their website to see whether it is on this year – and if not, buy a present for someone for next year……

the 17C silkweavers house ,which has been lovingly restored as a working house – is an insight into life of that period and it certainly keeps your mind wondering.  since Severs has passed away the house has been beautifully maintained  and continues to show in all its glory what life would have been like. – the grandeur of the wealthy, the darkness of the poor.  its a museum, cum drama, cum personal collection – its just breathtaking – your eyes dart from corner to corner of each of the rooms on the 5 floors – absorbing the different scenarios, the different smells, the crackling of the open fires , the flickering of the candles- it really is a must visit.  why not buy a visit for a friend – they would just love it.    think of art crossed with drama.

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.  not often visited because of the power station Sizewell beach is actually quite lovely and although it can be blustery cold in November, the sun can shine, the sky be clear blue and  with its wild landscape, the nuclear power station at one end, the huts and boats at the other end makes it quite dramatic.  also close by is Leiston Abbey,  which is definitely worth a visit.

Suffolk has so many beaches to discover and out of season, its not full of holidaymakers, its just you and nature….  Limeblossom cottage makes a great base for visiting both beaches and inland villages. 

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….

halloween

how did halloween get to be such an important event in the uk – i dont remember this as a child.  i do remember toffee apples and burning the guy fawkes for bonfire night though.

the custom of trick-or-treating and the use of “jack-o’-lanterns” comes from Ireland. hundreds of years ago, Irish farmers went from house to house, begging for food, in the name of their ancient gods, to be used at the village Halloween celebration. they would promise good luck to those who gave them good, and made threats to those who refused to give. they simply told the people, “You treat me, or else I will trick you!”

nobody really knows how halloween originated, but since the 19C , 31st october has acquired a reputation as a night on which witches, ghosts and fairies are especially active.

in the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church made 1st November a church holiday to honour all the saints. although it was a joyous holiday it was also the eve of All Souls Day, so in Medieval times it became customary to pray for the dead on this date.

another name for All Saints Day is ‘All Hallows‘ (hallow is an archaic English word for ‘saint’). the festival began on All Hallows Eve, the last night of October.; halloween comes from all hallow even, the eve(night before) All Hallows Day.  Therefore halloween is the eve of all saints day.

its always been a big tradition in america, but over the recent years, it has now become a big event for kids in england.  i always remember maude  carved the pumpkin to light and bought the sweets to hand out to all the little children who come round all cutely dressed up.  now she is away at uni it feels sad not to celebrate. 

 

exhibitions to see

there are so many exhibitions and galleries to visit now that we are able to. i have recently been to see a few, catching up on seeing art live is so inspirational. actually being in a room with a painting that you have seen for many years in print evokes a different feeling – seeing the brush strokes, the depths and tones. go and visit the Rothko room at Tate Britain and feel the harmony of those red hues.

Paula Rego is deeply moving and complex, relating the injustice to the female, violence, oppression – each painting relays a message, revealing the deep thoughts and moral sensibilities of the artist – sometimes portrayed as an activist, Rego rightly reveals the unfairness to women and girls and her paintings definitely disturb, provoke and make you think.

Noguchi at the Barbican shows what a varied artist/designer/sculptor he is – turning his hand to stage sets, bronzes and wooden sculptures – his most recognisable item being the paper lantern, which sadly has been overcopied , but part of every students room. An interesting exhibition for the those interested in all aspects of design.

the Royal Academy has its summer exhibition on, later due to the covid situation but worth a visit to see art from all ages, abilities. Always a bit overwhelming seeing so many pictures hung all together, it keeps one hope that you don’t have to be famous to hang in such an amazing gallery.

I am staying very close to the Victoria Miro gallery – an amazing architectural space, its always worth paying this gallery a visit.

Also worth visiting is the David Parry house in Cambridge, a fascinating insight into the house of David Parry who helped design the wall papers of William Morris; in his own home, he actually painted the designs directly onto the walls, rather than using paper – and all these years later, they have been preserved by his granddaughter and open to the public. you visit in small groups, but well worth seeing this beautiful labour of love in a domestic home.

happy art viewing.

ceramics and artisan

i am always looking for  beautiful ceramics – have a look at the delicate beakers and jugs by James and tilla waters. I love the bold designs of Silvia K. i also like the simplicity of the creamer jug from another country.  love the colourful blue jugs by reiko kaneko  – jugs are something i can’t resist and i have jugs in all sizes and colours, some old, some new!

jug_0080 jugs_0075 jugs_0071

another of my favourite ceramicists is Jacqui Roche,  who makes lovely cream porcelain ware, including this lovely porcelain rose.  Jacqui also runs workshops for adults and children, learning to use the wheel and glazing pots – she’s inspirational.  Fliff Carr is also a brilliant ceramics and teacher – her fine delicate pieces make lovely gifts. 

there seem to be very few artisan shops left in london, i find that its essential to touch and feel the things that i want to buy and especially the scale – you lose all the beauty in a photograph online.  fortunately there are a few shops remaining that still show interesting hand made ceramics – my favourites are listed.

My new discovery is Kobo in a little alley in Norwich, beautifully presented, and more rustic and earthy coloured pots, you can’t leave without purchasing something. mint is an inspiring shop selling beautiful ceramics and artisan products.    egg is another source of inspiration,  no website, but worth the journey.  igigi in brighton is another favourite place of mine – and definitely makes going to brighton worth it. merci in paris is another shop worth all the travelling to – its got to be a must on your list of paris shopping – merci also gives its profits to charity.Eclectic is typically japanese , very white, minimal, very delicate in style but like a breath of fresh air, it stands out amongst the usual chain shops around town.  of course there is frank in whitstable,  abigail aherne in islington has an unusual choice of ceramics.  native and co have lovely selection of Japanese gifts and homewares and momosan near London Fields also is a lovely shop to visit for gifts. 

harvest moon

tonight is the last full moon of the summer  known as the ‘autumn or corn moon’ – so called because it signals the time when corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice – the chief Indian staples are ready for gathering.  it has been full for the last 2 days, so try and look out for it. 

This full Moon corresponds to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is the Ghost Month and the fifteenth day of this month (a full Moon day) is called Ghost Day, on which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, come out to visit the living.  the ghosts are not scary in this instance, more a remembering of the past.  It’s also the autumnal time that families come together and  celebrate the abundance of life and what it offers, letting go of any pains and stresses and holding new intentions.  Coincidentally we are all here in Andalucia, the whole family, plus my son in law enjoying the warmth and family time – the last 18 months of strangeness has passed so quickly, but we missed lots of big birthdays during that time, 30, 21, 60 – so it feels that this 2 weeks has been a wonderful sharing time to reunite and catch up on everything.  Tonight we are going to celebrate the autumnal moon by watching it rise over the sea.  

here are a few pics from the town of the last couple of days with the moon in all its glory. 

 

chiringuitos

I am finally back in spain  and all my family with me, which is a huge pleasure after the last 18 months of being apart and not  being able to celebrate family birthdays and occasions.  With all my kids working or away at Uni, its been very difficult to get us all together.

September is such a lovely time to be in Andalucia, though we have had the odd downpour, but unlike London, the sun does break out and gives you a dash of warmth and glow.  the town quietens down and the beaches are filled with a scattering of people – the temperature is near perfect, around 25 C and the sea warm.  after 21 years of having our house here, we still always manage to discover new things, either through recommendations or just stumbling on things.  of course, some good things go, and some good things appear.  sadly, a lot of the amenity shopping in the old town seem to be replaced by dress shops or another restaurant.

Chiringuitos, are small bars or stands that can be seen the length of the Spanish coast, usually on the beachfront they open up during the busier holiday times and are much more affordable.  There are different types, some selling cold beverages and others that are much more elaborate and may serve meals. Some of the most typical treats on offer are paella and sardines, although the variety depends on the place .  There used to be a few stands on the beach at El Palmar, but sadly they haven’t been given their licences this past year,  apparently the restaurants complained about them taking their custom.  But there are lots of other chiringuitos on other beaches.  There is a great one on Mangueta beach, which simply barbecues fish and prawns and serves with salad, and a couple further down nearer to the lighthouse of Trafalgar, El Nia and Faro Beach.   another fun vibrant chiringuita is tangana on valdequeros beach – very close to the dunes just outside of tariff.   there is a lovely shop there too, caravan, housed in a caravan type shack, selling more quality summer clothes.   Canos de Meca has chiringuitas, as well as Zahara de los Atunes.

we now have pop up vans and trucks which is the english equivalent to the chiringuita.  in fact, Whitecross street, which is just by my new flat has a series of pop up stalls and vans, serving absolutely everything from Thai, Sushi, Lebanese,  Indian – don’t know whether this is a good thing or not having something like this on your doorstep.