Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween


Tonight Husband & I are going to a Halloween engagement party. We have used two films as inspiration for our characters. And quite co-incidentally, the actors we are going as dated at one point. I will try & take some photos of us dressed up before we go out. I have been making Husband a cut-throat razor out of a wine box and working out how I can try and coax my long straight hair into an 80s poodle perm (I am blonde so I will have to be an amalgamation of the Heathers).

{Photos are the respective film posters
which I cannot remember where they were found...}

Friday, 30 October 2009

Peacock Feathers Find: Grannies, Inc

I came across this website last week & loved the idea of a team of Grannies knitting beanies for people who want handmade beanies but don't know how to knit. You can choose from either a pre-designed hat or you can pick and choose your own shape, style & colours. You submit, pay & one of their Grannies knits your hat for you.

{Image from Grannies Inc}

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hampstead Heath

autumnal sun

Sometimes, just sometimes, a girl has to take the afternoon off and follow the autumnal sunlight to the most open space she knows. For the view. For the light. For the peace and quiet. Just sometimes, that day is Monday. And for this girl, that day was today.

The highest, lightest, open place I know (in London) is Hampstead Heath. So, in the company of a teaching friend who is on half-term this week, we went walking this afternoon. We walked in the orangey light of the late afternoon, across the grassy field full of people walking dogs, past the swimming lakes and up onto Parliament Hill. We walked side by side but in near silence, drinking in the light and the silence, broken only by the occasional chatter of tiny children and the barking of all the dogs being walked. We stood for a while looking over London and watching the sun creep lower in the sky before turning and returning to the village, the tube, home and, in my case, supper with Husband whilst watching the two final Masterchef programmes which aired whilst Husband was away.

autumn

{All images by me}

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Tower of London


Out of the gloom by the outer gate comes a pale, flickering light accompanied by the faintest jangling. A Yeoman Warder in his red jacket appears & disappears under a gate heading towards the White Tower, appearing again accompanied by 4 footmen. Together they march back to the furthest gate and begin the centuries old ritual of locking the Tower for the night. Doors locked, they march in formation back towards the Inner Ward down Water Lane, their footsteps echoing in the quiet night.

Suddenly the peace is broken by a shout: "holt" demands the Sentry posted by Traitor's Gate. "Who approaches?".

"Keys" comes the response? "Whose keys?" he demands. "Queen Elizabeth's keys" they reply.

And so they are allowed to pass towards the White Tower where the ceremony ends with a lone trumpeter playing the Last Post.

---

On Friday I went with the W.I to the Tower of London to witness the Ceremony of the Keys which is the ceremonial locking of the Tower which has happened daily since the 1200s and for a night tour of the Tower. It is a fascinating place built and evolved by many Kings of England and has housed some very famous prisoners (and executions). Two of Henry VIII's wives are buried in the church. Guy Fawkes was tortured at the Tower after being discovered at the Houses of Parliament. Even as late as the middle of last century the Kray Twins were held at the Tower for failing to report for national service.

It is also a beautiful reminder of old-fashioned London. I had never thought to visit but if you get the chance, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Welcome

My Wedding Graduate post is up on A Practical Wedding. Just wanted to say hello if you are dropping in from Meg's blog.

Friday, 23 October 2009

On freedom of speech & freedom of expression

I managed to get home in time to watch the last 50 minutes of Question Time on the BBC last night. It was an interesting programme to have watched, albeit in a slightly different format to usual. Admittedly I do not watch every episode of the programme but I have watched it enough times to know that usually a set of current affairs questions are asked to a panel by an audience.

As this is in the public domain and just in case it isn't abudantly clear from what I say, I will lay out my stance: I am not a supporter of the BNP. I am however a supporter of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. That is not to say I will always agree with what an individual has to say, nor that I won't draw inferences from what people say about themselves but I do think it is important that we have the right to freedom of speech and of expression.

I think the BBC were right to invite Nick Griffin, as leader of the BNP, onto a current affairs programme which gives other political parties a platform to speak. The BBC is not party affiliated and must be seen to be neutral. The BNP have achieved 2 seats in the European Parliament and were democratically elected to that position. What I do think the BBC should have done however was run Question Time in the usual fashion, i.e. the questions should have focused more heavily on this week's issues. I was expecting to hear discussion of the Royal Mail strikes, for example. Instead, the panellists and the audience, in my opinion, did themselves a disservice. They asked questions specifically about the BNP, attacked Nick Griffin personally and repeatedly, when what they should have been doing, in my opinion, was letting him dig his own hole. His views and his party's views are unpleasant, which is putting it mildly, but letting him come across as a victim, which he did, was in my view a mistake.

Of all the other panellists it was Bonnie Greer who impressed me the most. She was articulate when other panellists seemed unable to answer questions. I know she is not connected to a party, so she only had to represent her own views but it was clear to all that Great Britain needs more speakers like her, and less like Mr Griffin. The worrying thing is that the BNP seem to offer an alternative vote in towns and cities where anger at the mainstream political parties is rife and where education is less than satisfactory. We need to take note: I am able to watch Mr Griffin's statements and hear what is behind them, what he is covering up and know that he does not offer a viable solution, no matter what he says. But to some he will sound like his party offers them solutions which the other mainstream parties do not. Surveys have shown that people who are not racist are voting for the BNP. Parties do not get elected to the European Parliament when only a few fundamentalists vote for them. The BBC has drawn all eyes to the policies of the BNP: what is needed now is a realistic solution to win those votes back again.

Question Time did briefly touch on another issue that was topical this week, both in that it was current and because it also reflects on the very reason that Mr Griffin was invited by the BBC. The question was related to the Jan Moir article in the Daily Mail which reflected on the death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately and drew the conclusion that because Mr Gately died and because he was also gay, the fact he was gay must have caused or contributed to his death. It was a hugely distasteful, homophobic article and prompted thousands of complaints to the PCC. I disagreed with everything that Ms Moir wrote but I have to conclude that if we wish to live in a democratic society where freedom of speech is so fundamentally important, we have to allow people like Ms Moir the right to publish articles such as the one she did. We can say that she is wrong in her views but I would rather live in a society where newspapers and television channels are not restricted by the government.

It was this type of question in which Mr Griffin did himself disservice: in answering it he also came across as homophobic and ill informed. He did his party no credit by his response. Yet there was no personal attack on him so he did not sound the victim either. If only the other questions put to the panel last night had been in similar neutral terms. In answering this question the other panellists also demonstrated why the BBC was right to have invited Mr Griffin onto the programme in the first place: our country is a democratic one which prides itself on freedom of speech and each person's ability to draw from that their own conclusions. One hopes that everyone reading Ms Moir's article would have seen it for the homophobic rant that it was and that everyone watching Mr Griffin's stint as a Question Time panellist would have seen what he truly represented. But if they didn't, that is their choice. And one which we are entitled to have.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

On being married part II

I wrote before about being married but re-reading it, I'm not sure I agree with my July self any longer. On paper, not much has changed since then. I am still jobless although I have taken on some unpaid freelance work in PR which I am enjoying. I am still at home more than Husband. I am still, technically, a housewife, in that Husband works and I do not. Yet I do not feel that I am one, or need to be one. It is also (I hope, I pray) a temporary role.

Meg wrote the other day about reclaiming the word 'wife'. I think there is a lot of merit in stating that wife does not have to be defined in a Bree Van Der Kamp pre-catering-business type way. As you will no doubt have realised by now, my viewpoint usually leans towards the traditional but not, surprisingly, on the subject of the word 'wife'.

In our marriage, Husband and I are a partnership, a team, a family. Neither of us is in charge. We make decisions about our future together, jointly. Sometimes one person's agenda is more important (like when I had a job offer out of London) and sometimes the other person's needs take precedence. We share our household chores equally to our strengths: Husband loves to cook, I love to bake. We both sit down on a Monday night and order our vegetables and meat from Able & Cole, we purchase our own lunches and as he cooks (and earns the money at the moment, he purchases other food items on the way home from work. I purchase cleaning materials & toiletries, because I care which ones we use and he has little preference). Husband would rather wash up and I would rather do laundry. We have floor boards so we have yet to have the hoovering discussion but I suspect we would take turns. We both do tidying and emptying bins and cleaning generally as and when it needs doing. He encourages me to be nicer, I encourage him to come home a bit earlier from a night out. We support each other, look after each other when we are ill & try and get the other person to have the first shower in the morning so we can steal 5 more minutes in bed.

Home is where my Husband is. Home isn't my parents house any longer. I like that. I love being his wife, perhaps because it makes me smile every time he says it. I love that we have said to each other, in front of everyone else, that we are each others forever. I love that he is proud of that commitment, the fact that he is not single any longer and likes to proclaim it to friends, colleagues and clients. I also love the fact that when we were away on our honeymoon, his out of office e-mail told everyone that he was on our honeymoon, rather than just on annual leave.

I am his wife. He is my husband. But we are also so much more than that. We are a family.

But, pretty much all of this applied even before we got married. We were a family long before we got married, even if not officially, legally. We waited until we got married to open a joint bank account but since living together our finances have been intertwined. Generally, the person with the money spent it. Our habits, our sharing, our supporting were present long before any thoughts of marriage. Perhaps that was how we knew we would have a good marriage: that we had the basis without any formal commitment in the forms of rings or signatures. Which is why I am not traditional about the word 'wife': because wife to me simply says Rachel in the context of married Rachel and M. Nothing more.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Coffee and cupcake


I broke with tradition: on Saturday I went to the Hummingbird Bakery in South Kensington. I was supposed to be meeting a friend at the V&A but her bus got stuck in a traffic jam. And what's a girl to do, especially when she's wearing high heels, it's cold outside & friend is going to be a good 20 -30 minutes.

At £1.55 this chocolate and vanilla cupcake was 25p cheaper than my usual cupcake at the Primrose Bakery. Slightly smaller, slightly different, slightly easier to eat with a fork. The seat was comfier too & the coffee was better. Although, the Primrose Bakery still has the distinct advantage that it is next door to the vintage shop where I assist on Sundays.

So good was my coffee & cupcake combo that when my friend arrived she immediately got herself one too. Although she chose Red Velvet {we debated whether it was just cake with food colouring in, us unenlightened English, we had no idea - can anyone help?}.

{Image by me, on my blackberry, in the Hummingbird Bakery}

Monday, 19 October 2009

Baby it's cold outside

It's a chilly night tonight. Autumn is well and truly here. The weekend was full of sunshine and fallen leaves (despite spending most of it in either Selfridges or the vintage shop). Today I left for meetings under chilly and grey skies. I write this wrapped up in tights, jogging bottoms, ugg boots, t-shirt, polo neck jumper, cardigan and hot water bottle. We had to turn the heating on too, as the flat started to smell of wet and mouldy washing.

I keep dreaming of babies: my own and other peoples. We are definitely not having one at the moment and as far as I know, neither are the friends who are pregnant in my dreams. I keep going back to the same house as well, which in my dreams is my childhood holiday home. Which is odd, as the only holiday home we had was a tent, albeit pitched on the same piece of wild clifftop, year in, year out for 15 or so years.




{If we were having a baby though, I would have to get these slippers for it. They are so very sweet that I checked to see if they had them in my size (they didn't). I came across them when searching for a birthday present for my sister. As she is neither newborn nor having a newborn, they won't fit the bill, sadly... And I can't post here what I did buy, as every so often she reads this. Once her birthday has passed, I will show you though, as what we did choose is also very sweet.}

PS. Thank you to Baking Mad Mama & Wife in the City who have recently awarded me the awards featured on the left. I am most appreciative and will post the required list of favourite blogs and facts about myself soon. In the meantime, thank you, and please look at their blogs if you haven't already.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

While The Husband is away

Husband is away this week. It is his first business trip and he is going wine tasting in Burgundy. He is a lucky boy. It is also the first time that he has been away without me for more than 2 nights since we have lived together and certainly since we got married. Yet while I will miss him I am looking forward to a little time to do some more girly activities and some other things which will be easier when there is no-one to distract me. So, this week I aim to:

. have the clothes sort out that I keep promising to. Which will actually include going through all the clothes that haven't been worn since Husband and I moved to our current flat (and being ruthless). If it hasn't been worn in the last three years and isn't a family hand-me-down (as some of my jumpers belonged to my Mum) then they are going to the charity shop.

. make these Cinnamon whirls which look yummy and scrumptious and which I have been meaning to make them for weeks.



.visit the Tower of London with my W.I group and attend the 700 year old Ceremony of the Keys which is a ritual locking up of the crown jewels. Which will then be followed by a traditional English fish and chip supper in the pub inside the Tower which is usually only frequented by the Beefeaters.

.meet a blogging friend for tea and cakes after work (hers, not mine). And possibly meet a new blogging friend too. I love meeting my blogging friends in real life!

.have a girlie Saturday with my girlfriends which I hope will involve watching Strictly Come Dancing of which I will admit to being a bit of a fan... Whilst I don't like the overly showy format or Bruce, or even costumes (and particularly not the spray tans), I do love the dancing and "the journey" (even if it is a naff phrase) that each of the dancers experience. Although I did find it odd this year that I knew/recognised the professional dancers more than the so called 'celebrities'. (Except for Natalie from Eastenders. Despite never watching Eastenders I did somehow know who she was. All that magazine reading I used to do when I had a secretary clearly paid off). I hope we shall have a cliched day of laziness, pampering, nice food and trashy television.

.catch up on my winter handwashing. I admit it. I am terrible. I tend to have a clear up at the end of the summer/winter and throw everything into the spare linen basket where it remains until the seasons change and I have a need for, in this case, jumpers and scarves and mittens. So I shall use the opportunity to hang jumpers all over the flat whilst Husband is away. I might even wash one or two of his handwash only jumpers too.


{Photo by Peonies and Polaroids (who else!)}

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bedlinen

I have spent the past few days helping a friend with the re-launch of a formerly well-known bedlinen brand. It has been great fun and a fantastic learning experience. All of my wedding planning and implementing experience came in most useful, proof that if you want a career in such things it does not have to be limited to weddings in particular. I 'worked' with the PR team and the stylist covering all areas from the administration side of the event to the implementation of the show. Sadly no creative input (ha, of course not, when one is only helping out) but I gained lots of ideas and inspiration. Oh yes, and I compiled 100 beautiful goody-bags to hand out to the press.

And, as promised, some hints on making your bed look like a show bed. Aside from the obvious which is that packet new, freshly steamed bedlinen makes an enormous amount of difference to appearance, you could try the following (although I can't guarantee it will be as pleasant to sleep in as your usual set up):

. place a thin duvet under the undersheet to make the bed look doubly inviting.
. inside the duvet cover place at least 3, possibly up to 5 duvets, depending on thickness. This will make the duvet easier to arrange and look extra plump.
. you will need 8 fresh pillows and a plethora of cushions. Slightly flat slept on ones are no good, they must be thick and fat and inviting. Place in a variety of matching but contrasting pillow cases from the same range and pile up 4 at the back with 4 on their long sides in 2 rows of 2 in front.
. take a sheet and fold it so that it is poking out of the top of the duvet and tucked under the last row of pillows.
. arrange eiderdown, extra blankets and cushions on top of the artfully arranged duvet.
. hand steam away any wrinkles.
. place scented candles, light, flowers and other accessories on nearby cabinets.

Your bed will look fabulous and your room will smell divine. I am not poking fun here, this really will make your bed look fantastic... you just might need to tone it so that it actually works as a functioning bed too. 5 duvets may be too much for some people. Personally, I came home inspired to declutter and make our flat look a little less, umm, full.

I also took some photos of the show, so I will check whether I can post them for your inspiration as well.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Other people's weddings




Another week, another manic week. Am still here with plenty of stories to tell, including:

. how to dress a bed and bathroom to look like it should be in a magazine
. why going to watch a TV show being recorded is not as much fun as it should be (and why a certain blonde large radio and talk show host is nowhere near as funny in person)

In the meantime I leave you with a series of photos taken by Elegant & Wild at a friend's wedding a few weekends ago. More to come of us dancing later in the week when I've edited them to remove the other guests.

{all photos by Elegant & Wild}

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Things I did this weekend (inc. Friday)


. had a terrible migraine, so bad I thought it was a tummy bug. lay on the floor and vomited for several hours. slept all afternoon. woke to Husband returning with restorative teacakes and lucozade.
. cried over the death of a dog I do not know whilst watching Marley & me. even Husband admits it wasn't as bad as he thought it was going to be. {He claims it is only because he "is a sucker for dogs".}
. had an early night and woke up without the aide of an alarm at 9.30am. lay in bed listening to the rain and snuggling with Husband until late morning when the sun came out.
. made apple sauce with apples picked from Husband's parents' garden last weekend whilst Husband turned mushrooms, shallots, courgettes, steak and bread into a tasty lunch.
. did two loads of washing and hung it out in the surprising warm sunshine.
. went to the local tennis courts and played a game of tennis.
. finally tackled the ironing pile but had to put the heating on for the evening to deal with the remainder of the damp and wet washing that was threatening to take over the flat.
. ate hot buttered teacakes and drank tea.
. watched Strictly Come Dancing live for the first time all series.
. ate the most beautiful slow roasted pork neck served shredded with apple sauce, beetroot, ginger and honey and roast potatoes drenched in pork fat. One of the most delicious meals I have eaten in a long time, so good I would have chosen it again had I been served it in a restaurant.
. curled up with Husband on the sofa reading whilst he watched snooker and football.

and then tomorrow I will:

. have coffee with a friend.
. work in the vintage shop.
. attend a pub quiz with some old friends.

I hope you all have had peaceful and happy weekends.

{Image by Smash My Dream of Love via flickr.
She (well, I suppose it to be a her) is my new favourite
and I urge you to have a look at the rest of her work.}

Friday, 9 October 2009

On depression

Much as I hate to admit to have been reading the Daily Mail, I'm glad I came across this article. As some of you may know and others worked out from my postings, I occasionally suffer from bouts of depression. The first and worst was during my first term of university when even getting out of bed was a daily struggle. It is still one of my proudest achievements that I kept going, didn't allow myself to give up or give in and indeed, one day, about six months later, things did start to feel better and life became enjoyable again. I still look back on my time at university incredibly fondly (which I am sure you know) and the second and third years were amongst the best of my life. I developed various methods of coping with 'feeling down' and knowing when I was actually depressed and should seek help; each time I have felt this way since I have known that the sun does shine again. And that's why I was so glad to read that Stephen Fry (who is well documented to have struggled with depression) had written this letter to a viewer who wrote to him for help:

"Dear Crystal,

I’m so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I’m not sure there’s any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it’s sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don’t love yourself that much.

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one’s moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It’s real.

You can’t change it by wishing it away.

If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.

It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.

BUT

It will be sunny one day.

It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.

One day.

It really is the same with one’s moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness - these are as real as the weather - AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE’s CONTROL. Not one’s fault.

BUT

They will pass: they really will.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes.

‘Today’s a crap day,’ is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella.

‘Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.’

I don’t know if any of that is of any use: it may not seem it, and if so, I’m sorry. I just thought I’d drop you a line to wish you well in your search to find a little more pleasure and purpose in life.

Very best wishes

(Signed)

Stephen Fry"

He is right, it does pass, eventually, sometimes quickly, sometimes after a longer period of time. Eventually, I find that I do "look back on that time in which I was so unhappy, and remember it fondly" just as the poem says. It is just remembering to remember that at the time which is so difficult.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Pixies

I am around, things are just mental. I will be posting about all the things I said I would but, as I said to my friend yesterday, things have been so busy that I had to go and buy clean pants. So that's pretty busy!

But tonight we go to watch the Pixies. I cannot wait. Seriously, I love the Pixies. And guess what, Art Brut are supporting. Art Brut are friends of some good friends of ours from university (the chap who introduced Husband and I, actually). I love it when the support band turns out to be someone you actually want to go and see. Art Brut are actually worth a gig in themselves. And they are only the support.

Many years ago, we went to the Fortress in Old Street for Husband's brother's birthday. It was already a great night but then we went downstairs to the basement and discovered that Queen Adreena, another of my favourite bands, and the first gig I ever did go and see aged 17 (I came to my music late...) was just coming onto the stage. It was awesome.

The Pixies are playing at Brixton Academy: I have been there to see Tool, Machine Head and Bob Dylan, amongst others. It is a fantastic venue and I am listening to Spotify in anticipation of tonight's gig. I am actually excited!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sparks Fashion Show with Miele

Post coming soon...

The mind boggles

I know I've been promising some proper posts since last week, but that was before my Grandmother had an emergency operation and we all dashed up to the North to visit her. And before another family member died unexpectedly.

In the meantime I leave you with 2 snippets that made me laugh over the weekend:

* In the local newspaper published in my Grandparents village, which had been brought to the hospital for my Grandmother to read, there was a report about the local W.I group. They had held a competition for their members to bring in an object that they would save if they had to abandon their home, and the winner had brought in (and I quote): "a very personal item, which caused much hilarity". The mind boggles, it really does.

* An e-mail I received from my local freecycle (now known as freegle) group which proclaimed "Offered: Woman's Domination Kit!" and went on to say "It's a black PVC 'domination kit' which has never been used. It comprises of pants, bra, eye mask and whip." I love that she felt the need to point out that it had never been used. Also on offer from the same lady was a small hand held electrolysis machine, a DVD remote control and a hippo water saver for a loo cistern. It's good to know just what stuff people try and keep from landfill. I wonder if she will have any takers.

{I should point out that I am a member of both the W.I and my local freegle/freeycle group. I think they are both fantastic, for different reasons, I just find some of their goings-on amusing}.