Tuesday, 23 September 2014

i am listening to...

a painting, a song and a poem for autumn

Autumn Effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet.

Today we celebrate the autumn equinox. The word 'equinox' is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are of equal length. The Druids call this celebration Meán Fómhair and honour the the Green Man, the God of the Forest. Other Pagans will celebrate the festival of Mabon, which marks the decline of nature and the slow coming of winter. Summer is waning, the autumnal winds have arrived...

Autumn is my favourite season. Soup, jumpers, crisp mornings. Every September I tend to listen to the above, one of my favourite songs by Patrick Wolf, on repeat as the month comes to its chilly close. Also, here is a beautiful poem from Ted Hughes:

The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening-
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.

The second sorrow
Is the empty feet
Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.
The woodland of gold
Is folded in feathers
With its head in a bag.

And the third sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers
The minutes of evening,
The golden and holy
Ground of the picture.

The fourth sorrow
Is the pond gone black
Ruined and sunken the city of water-
The beetle's palace,
The catacombs
Of the dragonfly.

And the fifth sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.
One day it's gone.
It has only left litter-
Firewood, tentpoles.

And the sixth sorrow
Is the fox's sorrow
The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,
The hooves that pound
Till earth closes her ear
To the fox's prayer.

And the seventh sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window
As the year packs up
Like a tatty fairground
That came for the children.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sunday, 14 September 2014

parkway greens

We used to have our fruit and vegetables delivered to our front door in neat cardboard boxes, but since we've started shopping at Parkway Greens, which opened very close to our home earlier this year, we've been completely converted. It's become something of a ritual, our Sunday morning jaunt to leafy Parkway. We'll pick up what looks good (everything) and come home and cook with it. Sometimes I'll even have leftovers to take to work on Monday morning. I don't miss the cardboard boxes at all, convenient though it was to have everything delivered, because now we have somewhere local to shop - a beautiful green store stuffed with colourful, interesting produce. Last weekend we bought these courgette flowers (what a treat!) and stuffed them with ricotta and mint, before deep frying briefly. Absolutely delicious, and just as good as those I ate on the Amalfi Coast back in August.

D. made pasta which we ate with three types of mushroom and lots of herbs (from our flourishing balcony garden), garlic and parmesan.

I made a blackberry and blueberry galette (a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, who coincidentally also shops at Parkway Greens). This was fabulous, and I've actually made it two more times since last weekend, I'm almost afraid to admit. Sticky, dark, glistening and gooey, it's a perfect autumn pudding.

Even more blueberries, which I sprinkled over ricotta hotcakes this morning.

gant rugger autumn/winter 2014

I'm a big fan of Gant Rugger's horticulture-inspired autumn/winter 2014 collection. This suede and shearling jacket in particular could well find its way into my wardrobe come the colder months.

Olive green wool and a fur trimmed hood? Heaven!

A very lovely leaf print worn with tan leather gloves.

Enjoying the layering up with a grey wool waistcoat here (and the scarf in pocket).

Sunday, 7 September 2014

two good meals

We've been for two very good meals this week. The first was supper on Tuesday evening at The Palomar in Soho, where the food of modern day Jerusalem is warmly served. We sat at the beautiful zinc-topped bar overlooking the open kitchen and shared a variety of small dishes - sweet, buttery bread served with tahini and tomato dips, assorted mezze (featuring a delicious, oily aubergine dish), a knockout bowl of polenta topped with a rich mushroom ragout, asparagus, Parmesan and truffle oil and a striking, fresh salmon tartare. The small space was buzzing and lively and the music was loud; it felt like a new and exciting way to eat out in London. I recommend!

The second good meal was breakfast this morning - we ventured into town and drank hot chocolate and ate eggs with potatoes, onion and bacon over the Sunday newspapers at Fischer's on Marylebone High Street. The food (classic Austrian fare) is not particularly groundbreaking, but, as with The Palomar, the atmosphere is overwhelming and transportive. At Fischer's it's all about the ritzy elegance of Mitteleuropa - gorgeous panelling, marquetry and mirrors, distressed, hand painted wallpaper, waiters in green waistcoats and golden ties and a magnificent station clock looming over it all. Timeless and dreamy, the whole experience is pure Grand Budapest Hotel.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

new! in my shop

My new White Tiger printed fabric is now available from my website shop as a 45 x 45cm cushion, as well as by the metre. Based on an original charcoal illustration, the fabric is printed in England on to a soft cotton/linen mix.

A giclée print of my August Folly drawing is also new to the shop. Printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm paper, this is a signed edition of 25.

Of course, there are embroidered cushions in stock too!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

early autumn culture

Tickets have all but sold out for Medea at the National Theatre but I've managed to get hold of one for tomorrow night, which is lucky as the run finishes next week. Medea will also be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 4th September.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s starring role as Hamlet has become the fastest-selling ticket in London theatre history with advance seats selling out in minutes almost a year before the curtain rises. I'm going to have to beg, borrow or steal myself a ticket to this show. On another note, when I have kids, this is how I will encourage them to dress and behave at all times.

'This debut feature from the Cambodian-born, London-based film-maker Hong Khaou is heartfelt, intelligent film-making on a shoestring budget', says the Guardian.

As a teenager, Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep was a favourite film of mine. For months I had it on repeat in the background, I loved the beautiful, whimsical world he had created so much. Mood Indigo seems to promise more of the same.

in the press... elle decor 13/08/2014

Read the full article here!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

amalfian dreams

We returned home from the Amalfi Coast last Saturday, after a sublime summer holiday. On the previous Saturday afternoon we flew into Naples (via Stuttgart), past Vesuvius, which seemed to loom dark and heavy over the blue shoreline. To get to our base for the week, we drove for an hour or so south, eventually coming to the notorious SS163 coastal road. We joined at its beginning in the town of Vietri sul Mare and then, clinging to the cliff edge, crawled along to our destination, the beautiful Villa Scarpariello. We dropped off our bags and de-robed, achey and hot after the long journey, and jumped straight into the sea.

Later that evening we walked from the villa along the SS163 to the charming fishing village of Atrani. We did a lot of walking along this coastal road, which provides access to the towns dotted along the sea. It was quite terrifying at first - there are no pavements, and you're faced with sharp bends and twists whilst mopeds, sports cars and buses come hurtling towards you at great speed, but we quickly got used to it. Atrani has the most lovely square, which we ended up frequenting most nights for a spritz or three. We'd sit there as the sun was setting over the water, in front of the church of San Salvatore, and watch people from all generations going about their business. It was just the most perfect Italian square; full of life. Interestingly, Atrani resides along the valley of the Dragone River, named after a legend which describes a terrible dragon that would hide himself there.

The family run Villa Scarpariello was a great find - our terrace overlooked the sea, and we'd wake up every morning to the most fabulous view. A cluster of simple, rustic rooms and apartments surround tiered gardens and a 15th-century watchtower - all connected via a maze of steps.

After our daily breakfast of coffee and fruit, we'd go for a swim in the saltwater pool. Or we'd wander down to the rocks and dive into the sea.

On Sunday morning we drove up to nearby Ravello, which is set like an eagle's nest above the shimmering coastline. We explored the town's lanes and terraces before enjoying a delicious poolside lunch at the Hotel Caruso. Described as one of the best hotels in Europe, the Caruso was once a palace, with terraced gardens and an infinity pool that seemed to spill into the Gulf of Sorrento below.

We took a ferry to Capri on Tuesday. Lunch was at La Capannina, one of the most perfect restaurants I've had the pleasure of visiting. Waiters in pale pink waistcoats and black cummerbunds serve local dishes, whilst diners sit at tables laid with matching pink tablecloths, which I remember jarred superbly with the vivid green tiled floor. I highly recommend.

After lunch we paid a visit to the Grotta Azzurra, a sea cave on the coast of the island. Sunlight, passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, creates a blue reflection that illuminates the cavern. The grotto was known by the Romans, and apparently used by the Emperor Tiberius during the years when he retired to Capri. To get to it, you take a small boat around the coast to the tiny entrance, before being rowed into the cave itself by a local guy in a gondola.

Amalfi, in the next bay over from Atrani, felt much more touristy than it's quieter neighbour, but I still liked it very much. We had dinner in Amalfi a couple of times; afterwards we'd sit in the Piazza Duomo, the heart of Amalfi, with a few scoops of hazelnut gelato. The Duomo itself, which dominates the square, was magnificent. The façade of the cathedral is Byzantine in style and is adorned with various paintings of saints, including a large fresco of Saint Andrew.

Wednesday found us renting a small boat, which we sped up and down the coast in, dropping anchor and taking a quick swim every now and again. We visited La Gilli (or Le Sirenuse), an archipelago of little islands just off the coast of Positano. The name, Sirenuse, is a reference to the mythological sirens said to have lived there. Several sirens were said to have inhabited the islands, the most famous of whom were Parthenope, Leucosia and Ligeia. One of them played the lyre, another sang and another played the flute.

Holiday essentials...

Happily, I did quite a lot of sketching during our stay, usually in the evenings before supper or first thing in the morning.

On Friday we climbed down hundreds of steps from the road (further west and closer to Positano) right down to the sea, with the idea of having lunch at Da Adolfo, which I'd read about and couldn't wait to visit. The restaurant is situated in a tiny rocky cove (I imagine it's much easier to get to from the sea), in what is more or less a straw-roofed beach hut. The food, however, was incredible. We had, amongst other delicious things, grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves and the most excellent drink - jugs of white wine served with peaches. Could this work as well in North London, do you think? I have my doubts!

Two other highlights of the trip were a perfect, simple shrimp risotto from the wonderful A' Paranza in Atrani (which I ate on three separate occasions because it was so heavenly) and the Villa Cimbrone, a historic building in Ravello, with its beautiful accompanying gardens, which we spent Thursday afternoon getting lost in. Saturday was mostly taken up by the lengthy return trip (this time via Düsseldorf). We had a fabulous week, with just the right amounts of rest, relaxation, eating, drinking, exploration and discovery, which I reckon all summer holidays should have in equal parts. Amalfi, when can I return to you?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

art on a thursday

Acrobat by John McLean.

'My pictures have no hidden meaning. To understand, all you have to do is look. I work in terms of the feelings I can elicit with drawing, colour and surface. Instinct and spontaneity are crucial. Thought goes into it too, in the same way that it does in singing and dancing.'

John McLean, 2012

Sunday, 10 August 2014

to the lighthouse: 2014

And so, to the North Devon coast for our annual family holiday. I stayed in Ilfracombe for four nights at the very end of July with my mother and siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents; it's something of a ritual (I've been visiting the seaside in Devon practically every summer since I was born - see here for entries on 2013 and 2012 trips). Anyway, I came across this mural whilst changing trains at Exeter St Davids railway station on my way down and had to take a quick snap. Obviously I found it completely brilliant.

The view from the first floor of the little pink house on the harbour, which we have rented for a week in summer for the past three or four years. We've almost always stayed in houses on the harbour.

One day we visited the nearby coastal villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, as we usually tend to do. We took the water-powered cliff railway from Lynmouth up to Lynton, where we walked west to the Valley of the Rocks, which runs parallel to the coast. The views from the cliff path were spectacular. Can you spot the wild goat?

Stereoview of Valley of the Rocks photographed by W.E. Palmer (late 1800s). The sea cliffs here are amongst the highest in Britain.

The night before leaving, I took my family to the Quay - Damien Hirst's restaurant on the harbour, which I've been wanting to visit for some time. The Lundy crab claws were particularly delicious, although the uninterrupted view of the raging sea alone would have been worth the visit.