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Incipient addiction to crochet

6 Dec

I’ve always wanted to crochet. I find the textures wonderful. I’ve tried following books and you tube clips but always ended up with a dispiriting knotted mess. Instead of all that rubbish I’m taking a short course at Little Woollie in Shortlands. It’s wonderful. Tips that really helped…. Seeing how to hold the work, making a chain with a hook 1/2 size bigger so it’s easier to then get the proper size hook into, use pale yarn to get started because you can see the stitches better…I can dc and tr and I think I’ve invented a few special stitches too.
I am carrying crochet round and practising on the tube, in the train, waiting outside school, …. I’m going to take a knitting course next and finally learn how to do more than knit one, knit one, …

Free access to Westminster Abbey cloister

27 Jul

Round the back of Westminster Abbey you can access the cloister without paying. Love the wonderful recycling of stained glass fragments into new windows:

And the monuments… Many are for young people because of the connection with Westminster school. How about this for lost promise…

And some great modern stone carving…


Hidden in plain sight

25 Oct


My hidden London find for this week… The mosaics in the atrium at the National Gallery. The subject choices are bizzarely eclectic… cricket, dance, profane love (!), christmas pudding, sea horse, mud pie, contemplation, conversation, football, hunting, rest, speed… All lie within a few square metres underfoot. These and more are the work of Boris Anrep, a Russian born artist whom the NG commissioned, wonderfully, in the early 20th century to embellish the grand main entrance stairwell. He completed The Labours of Life in 1928, The Pleasures of Life in ’33, and returned for The Modern Virtues, including a battling Churchill embodying Defiance in 1952. They are remarkable and eccentric and a robust everyday-use treasure.








Lost in books

7 Aug


Bookish week. I saw the artist group aMAZEme constructing this maze of books in the back of the Royal Festival Hall two weekends ago. When you pop in to see it make sure you also check out the Poetry Library on the 5th floor. It is free, has every British poetry book from the last hundred years and more and you can borrow. If you live a way off you can post the books back to return them. It is the perfect risk free way to discover new poets. Then there is Foyles in the basement of the RFH and the main shop across the river on Charing Cross Rd and the Tate bookshop for art books and the second hand stalls under the bridge in front of the NFT. Lots happening on the South Bank these Olympic weeks. The food markets are also on every day.
Grain Edit for the photos of the finished work:

I would like to live in… Much Ado Books

6 Aug


I have been to City Lights in San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co in Paris, Daunts and Foyles in London, but up there among the best bookshops in the world, and the one I look forward to visiting most, is Much Ado books in Alfriston, in the sublime South Downs. It demonstrates what a bookshop is for in this era of ipad downloads, kindles & the alleged death of print… Discovery. The selection is just perfect. And to top the carefully edited choice of fiction, cookery, philosophy… comes a truly inspiring bohemian environment. This is as your house would be if the books took over, someone took the kids out for the day, all your long planned ambitions to create the perfect mis en scene magically came to fruition, the coffee began to whoosh on the stove, and you had nothing to do all day but muck about and read books. Yes, it is Heaven.

Fig leaves at Glyndebourne

6 Aug

Smashing Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne. Like a 17th century sketch show. Basically a much more watchable version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Very rude in those woods, pretty coarse at times. It must be the mood of the times… Benny Hill in the time outs at the beach volley ball and 7ft bunnies frolicking every which way to the strains of Purcell at Glyndebourne. Jonathan Kent’s staging was a feast. A near naked Adam and Eve vignette something of a highlight. I plucked a fig leaf from the gardens afterwards as a memento.
Love the Glyndebourne wind turbine but had to turn around to eat my picnic… It made me feel I was on the clock rather than entirely at my leisure in a rural idyll.


Garden filled with sculpture. I loved this Diana:


Ardingly better than ever

17 Jul


Good day at Ardingly. It didn’t even rain. Definitely worth paying £20 for the first day. Our haul was necessarily small – a) I bought a table on eBay this week and a rocking chair last week b) I had two small children with me. Number 1 was a superstar and scored an unprecedented 9.5 across the board, Number 2 … best to move swiftly on. Vintage wooden cotton reels £1, great vintage French fabrics from £2 for quite generous pieces, beautifully embroidered linens, crisp deco knives. All of these I will use. Number 1 will have some very unusual frocks on the go for Autumn/Winter 2012.





Outing: South Bank muses & Turkish Deli

12 Jan

Love the muses painted on the roughed up wall behind the Oxo Tower building.
I always give the shops there a go – I like Bodo Sperlein, though didn’t venture in with Number 2 flailing his arms for fear of smashing the place up – but the whole effect is never as good as it ought to be, too many shops closed, too many jewellers, not enough of a welcome. Perhaps they could look at pop-up rentals for art collectives or groups of designer makers…
Good outing by Number 2’s count – lots of diggers, of all shapes and sizes, cement mixers and dumpers (He makes the word sound like dinosaur, but then he makes ‘chocolate’ sound like ‘toilet’ and his name comes out more like ‘baby owl’ which could stick, like ‘Bear’ Grylls). The various disruption from the shooting Shard to Borough Market, to the Globe, to the smart new Blackfriars station, … is all managed very slickly but I’m sure my tot is one of the few who actually relish its yield of CAT heavy vehicles.
Another find – for me – is The Turkish Deli in Borough Market. Olives, olive soap, food, coffee, turkish delight… Graham there made me a turkish coffee with a perfect piece of pine sap turkish delight on the side. I am converted. The turkish delight is really appealing in its range of flavours and that it contains no nasties or gelatine. I’ll let you know how the olive soap goes but the turkish delight is gone – this time we tried pomegranante & walnut then fig, which was a revelation. This is their website:

Sign painters: Take Courage!

31 Dec

This is one of my favourite London landmarks, visible from the trains running into Charing Cross through Waterloo East and London Bridge and to the walker leaving Borough Market for a leisurely flan along the South Bank. Take Courage. I know it’s just old beer but it galvanises me each time I see it.
There’s a sign painter movie in development by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon in the States:
More power to them in their herculanean endeavour.
I trust someone is preserving our fading painted signs with similar fervour. Since I started looking up I see them everywhere.

PS: Just found this archive of UK ‘ghostsigns’ c/o the History of Advertising Trust

The eye in the bacon

13 Dec

St Martin in the Fields East window

Passing St Martin in the Fields Church next to Trafalgar Square the other day. I love the window that was installed as part of the restoration work not too long since. It makes me think of the eye in the bacon. (Remember how bacon rashers always used to have a hard spot of white gristle in them – what has happened to that? I kind of miss it. It used to be one feature of tea at Grandma’s house, along with the fabulous chips and iced sponge cakes. We ate healthily at home.)

As public art goes it beats the Oscar Wilde tomb-like sculpture behind the church into a big hole.  Iranian-born artist Shirazeh Houshiary created this new East window. It’s very clever – disrupts the extreme classical rigidity of that facade and demands I think hard on the obstacle in the flow.

Find the StM-i-the-F website with its cafe, concert programme, and details of its help to London’s homeless here: