In deepest darkest East Dulwich, there is a small oasis of green.
A wildlife garden that was previously a council depot.
On a sunny day I wandered by and saw frogs as far as the eye could see.
They were croaking, floating, climbing all over each other. I spied a newt as well.
Like the frogs I was happy to see the sun. It feels like Spring has taken a long time to arrive this year.
*This post is part of Blog Every Day in May challenge
My new year’s resolution was to embrace my inner tortoise. The first few months of 2013 were anything but tortoise-like, there were parties, lots of work and dashing round the country and I felt a bit like a headless chicken. I started not enjoying things as much as I expected, talks that I looked forward to became chores or were missed because I was at work. This lead to me feeling pretty sad and being exhausted with a bout of norovirus thrown in for good measure. Recently though I have settled into the tortoise groove. I have deliberately not been going away at weekends and filling my diary up with stuff – I’ve become happy pottering around my flat, making tasty food and sorting domestic stuff out. It was quite odd at first but I find now that I love it.
So what have I been doing? I’ve read a tonne of books, knitted a bit, had the odd nap, listened to lots of radio & music. I’ve been clearing out all my cupboards systematically – one after another. Things are being given away, sold on Amazon and ebay, given to clothing drives and charity shops. Each weekend I’ve set myself a challenge to take stuff to charity – clothes I haven’t worn in a year, crockery I don’t really need, books I don’t think I’ll read. I think it might get addictive. I’m finding new corners to attack all the times and finding that getting rid of stuff is genuinely making me feel lighter and putting a spring in my step.
Today, I recycled my BUST magazine back-catalogue and have aggressively pruned my paperwork. I’ve found that it is easy to intersperse clearing out a cupboard with a walk in the park or drinks with friends in the evening. All this domestic time has also made me feel more connected to my local area – I’ve visited local places I haven’t been to before & walked down different streets. I’m far from being a hermit but I’m just being a little bit more reclusive than I’ve been before.
Before weekends would usually be a mix of me trying to sling washing into the machine while rushing from one thing to another and I often starting working weeks feeling like a bit of chewed up string. This morning I went and read the paper in the park to lap up a few sun rays while sipping a coffee. A month ago this would have been unheard of as I would have felt guilty but not today.
I’ve still got a lot on my various to-do lists and lots of people I owe emails but adopting a slower pace has made everything much less stressful & more fun. I feel like I’m learning to be a bit more honest with myself about what really makes me happy. Taking a small step off the urban treadmill (See more! Do cultural things! Work really hard! Have a crazy social life!) has helped me focus on things closer to home and I’ve become my own personal cheerleader for the many small victories I’ve had over the past few weeks. I have beautiful tidy kitchen cupboards, a spice draw I can open and have taken healthy lunches to work. I’ve been on time or early to things! This is very exciting.
Inhale. Exhale. It is all about finding your inner tortoise.
Hurrah! Today the sun is shining – I spy blue skies and cotton wool clouds. I’ve just gone for walk in the sunshine with a coffee to celebrate. It has felt so grey and miserable recently so was overjoyed when I woke up this morning. Catching some rays certainly put a spring in my step. Also if you are a member of the WI, I have an article in April’s WI Life magazine about the WI and Women’s Prisons which is really exciting.
I also love the Easter break, a glorious long weekend to celebrate all good Spring things – daffodils, eggs, lambs. This weekend I’m looking forward to a good Spring clean as I feel like there is dirt and stuff EVERYWHERE at the minute. I’m also going to see Suede (who as we know are the best band ever) tomorrow to feel 15 again and then spend some lovely time with my family. I have been tweeting some Easter Crafting things that have been catching my eye for Borough Belles so thought I’d share them here as well.
:: Domestic Sluttery’s Gluten Free Cake eggs - Not sure I’d have the patience (or skill) but they look so gorgeous. I’ve also been enjoying seeing Homemade Hot Cross Buns popping up across the internet which look really tasty.
:: Finally The Londonist Yellow Friday photos chimed with my sunny yellow mood perfectly with their zingy photos. Also new chocolate which has different tastes combinations for different parts of London! (No Peckham chocolate but I want to try Brixton Hill!)
Wishing you a lovely Easter break whatever you are doing.
This weekend I ran away to Bath for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. It had been a place I’d wanted to go for a while and it was great to have some time to explore a new place. It is a gorgeous city, all very walkable. We stayed at these amazing apartments in the centre of town.
First stop was tea at the pump rooms where I had cheddar crumpets with some of the best picallili I have ever tasted and jasmine tea, before going off for a swim and sauna at the Spa. The spa is lovely and I spent some very happy time bobbing in the twilight watching stars coming out and lights come on across the city.
Bath is a very walkable city – we did a walking tour to get a good feel of the place. The Royal Crescent and The Circus were breathtakingly grand.
I took lots and lots of photos – such lovely views, interesting buildings and everything was very pretty. I would have loved to visit Number 1, the ‘showhome‘ done out in Regency decor but it was sadly shut. (Next time, next time). I loved the gorgeous Georgian buildings and spent quite a bit of time pretending I was promenading wearing an empire-line fancy frock and loved looking into basement flats to find hidden courtyards and gardens.
Bath is full of gorgeous shops, cafes & bakeries – perfect for pottering around and having lovely lunches and spots of tea.
We had a browse of Toast, a stop in Wool and The Makery over the course of the weekend and a few more places besides. It is still a nice mix of independent shops, chain-stores and higher-end high street shops – you were never quite sure what was going to be round the next corner but lots of it was interesting. We had gorgeous salads in Cafe Lucca, delicious cake and tea in The Bertinet Bakery.
We also went to the Victoria Art Gallery which had a nice collection of paintings and a great photography exhibition by Roger Mayne. Next time I really want to go to see a film at the gorgeous looking cinema (bit violent this time) and to a concert at Chapel Arts Centre.
Although only there for a couple of days we did manage to fit a lot of the tourist things in to our days – we visited The Assembly Rooms to pretend we were in Jane Austen novel, the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey and even stopped for a bun in the infamous Sally Lunn’s shop.
A lovely break. Bet it is lovely in the summer…
Another reason to love February is Valentine’s Day. One of my favourite days of the year. I know it divides people (rampant consumerism, card shop and floristry conspiracies blah blah blah), but I think there is something just so lovely about it. (See here for my previous V-day post about being a closet romantic!)
Today I’ve enjoyed seeing guys walking about London with bunches of flowers or frantically scanning shops for suitable cards and the odd love song being played on the radio…
So in keeping with this mood of romance I thought I’d post a couple of my favourite love related things of late.
1) Ted Talk: Data, A Love Story
After heartbreak and series of terrible dates, Amy sets out to create her own “algorithm” by using maths and data to find her dream man. Funny, geeky, inspiring and empowering; I love her DIY approach and thought it was a refreshing take on online dating stories. Well worth a watch - it had me giggling.
2) Great school of life post about the differences between being on your own and being lonely. Thought-provoking about whether spending a lot of time alone is better for your creativity and contains a great quote:
“Being alone means being with ourselves and we can never be certain just what we will find inside.”
3) The amazing Penguin book blog which I love has had a competition for best Penguin Love Story of all time. While there are no surprises in the list I still loved the post and was very pleased my favourite romantic book, Wuthering Heights, featured in it.
4) This fantastic stop motion video is so cute and involves cakes and a circus theme (with thanks to the lovely NeverEatWobblyJelly who showed this to me):
Hope you have had a lovely day whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day or not. If you do have a good love related link or recommendation, let me know I’d love to see it!
Yesterday was my birthday. It is well documented that I love birthdays and I’ve always felt quite lucky to have my birthday in February – the shortest month, the month for me when you can spot the days getting slightly longer and it feels like Spring is starting to emerge. This year was a double treat as I get very excited when it coincides with pancake day.
So my birthday was full of good things – playing, dancing, family, snow, pancakes, prosecco, good coffee and delicious food. Beautiful cards arrived in the post, really thoughtful presents from my family, lots of lovely birthday wishes & my sister made me a splendid cake*.
A very lovely day which made me feel all warm all day long today.
*My camera is off-sick at the minute so I don’t have any pictures of it but I think the camera biscuits will do the trick for now.
I’ve just been to see Life Of Pi at the cinema which I thought was wonderful. Beautiful, sad, charming, exotic – full of faith, hope & adventure. I loved the ‘mix of practicality and spirituality’ in the film and about being yourself at all times. I hadn’t seen the point of 3D until this evening but I loved how involving it was, like having the animals right in front of you. The opening sequence had me gasping. My favourite moment was when the camera panned up and the image on the screen was a perfect replica of the front cover of the book. I love it when the film adaptation nods to real life details like that. I can’t imagine going back to my spy book set in Vienna in the war that I’m reading as it has made me want to read about adventures on far-flung seas. Maybe I’ll dust the copy of Life of Pi and start imagining myself somewhere in the Pacific ocean.
And of course, the tiger. Such amazing, beautiful but terrifying creatures. Years ago, I found myself eyeballing a tiger. I remember having two simultaneous urges – one to run away as it had frankly crazy “I will rip your arm off” eyes and one to cuddle it because it was like a big cat. Thankfully there were some big bars in the way so I just fed it some meat using a stick. An experience I will never forget. I could completely imagine being scared of the tiger and then falling slightly in love with it in the process of taming it.
“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.” Yann Martel – Life of Pi
Topped off with a bowl of Sopa Azteca at Casa Morita in Brixton Village on way home. Absolutely just the ticket on a lacklustre Tuesday in January.
I’ve had a lovely weekend – full of friends, curry (Burmese and homemade Indian), walking, snowballs and games. But I always find this time of year my mind starts wandering to sunny climes. I still have a funny relationship with travel – I don’t consider myself as a “Traveller”. I don’t have an insatiable wanderlust; wanting to visit an unlimited number of places and a thirst for always being on the move. Travel still makes me feel a bit guilty – it is such a luxury being able to go where I want and then there is air pollution, impact of tourism on local communities/environment. I also feel a bit disloyal to the UK – I love travelling here, I definitely don’t need to get a plane to see beautiful places. Some of my best adventures have been here – the fierce sheep altercation late at night on a windy road in Snowdonia, parties on the beach in Norfolk, camping in Cornwall, getting stuck on a road in Yorkshire completely covered in frogs!
I always find many places I want to stay longer or imagine a parallel life. Top favourites are running a bookshop in Cornwall or working in a French bakery. But there have been a handful of places* that I have always wanted to go – fascinating, amazing places that I have read books about, watched films, drooled over photos and listened to talks. India, Nepal, Morocco, The Gapalagos and Cuba have been on that list for a long long time…
This year I’m planning a trip to Cuba for late 2013/2014. Cuba has been on my mind since I went to a lot of talks about Cuba including a one day event at Conway Hall run by the Cuban Solidarity Campaign. It is a cliche but I also really want to go “before Castro dies” and the US moves in. I’m keen to save up and plan ahead for this trip. To really anticipate and get excited. Often my holidays are impulses or come upon me too quickly. This time I really want to savour looking forward to my trip. So to get me in the mood I’m doing a few things…
:: Enjoying my friend Jane’s beautiful blog about her trip last year – her pictures are gorgeous.
:: Listening to my Buneau Vista Social Club records and world service podcasts about Cuban culture.
:: Reading extracts from ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and ‘Our Man in Havana’ on my Kindle
:: Learning some basic Spanish- Hola Amigos!
:: Plotting different itineraries – excitedly thinking about what I want to do and where to go. Havana, music, 50s cars, faded beautiful buildings and the Ballet is definitely part of the plan.
It is all so exciting and I haven’t even booked my flights yet. It has got me thinking about how people prepare for things – what things do you do before you travel somewhere new?
What other Cuban delights should I be doing to help me prepare for my trip?
Any recommendations gratefully received.
*Recent additions have been Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Alaska, South America and back to lots of places in South East Asia.
2012 was a year of settling into things. 2011 had been a crazy year of brilliant, amazing things but also sad hard things that took a while to adjust to. So if 2011 was a kick to wake me up and be brave, 2012 was an opportunity to rekindle the things that I love and feel very much myself again, to have adventures, explore London through fresh eyes and thrive on being alone. I’ve learnt that sometimes allowing yourself space to just be is what is needed, taking opportunities can lead to brilliant, unexpected fun (hello Ibiza and Jordan), do more, worry less – write that blogpost even if isn’t brilliant, do that thing you’ve wanted to do even if it’s silly, make the thing, throw a party – people will come!
After years of punishing myself with various SMART objectives, I’ve decided in recent years to adopt Colleen’s gentle aspirations. Last year my vague themes for the year had an F-theme. So going back to my F’s – how did I do?
Fun – 9/10 - A* student who knows how to have a good time!
Muchos fun was had on all fronts. I nearly gave this a ten but my inner Craig Revell-Horwood wouldn’t quite let me. There was riotous fun at Ultimate Power, exciting holidays abroad and lovely trips in the UK. I visited Henry Moore and Beatrix Potter’s homes, went to France for a day on my own, played/argued about board games, slept under the stars in the desert, swam in a thunderstorm and blagged my way into Pacha in Ibiza as a VIP. There were also fun everyday things – sitting in the park in my lunch hour, spontaneous cocktail drinking, watching gossip girl in my PJs, being made to cry at the proms and going to the cinema. I also rediscovered reading and discussing books again after a period of hiatus. I enjoyed making things – playmat, cross-stitching the sampler of dreams, finishing a knitted shawl. There was also much WI fun – cake stalls, our first zine and plenty of laughter at meetings!
Fit - 3/10 – Could do better
I started the year well – the first half of the year had me going to zumba however the great foot slashing of the summer. (Yes, I accidentally left a broken glass lamp where I could sort of step on it and 20 something stitches later it hurt a lot!) Special mention for Kirsty (aka my knight in shining armour) who bandaged me up and got me to A&E for the second time in two years. Fingers crossed she won’t need to do this in 2013!
Food – 6/10 – A mixed year that shows some potential
Trying new things has gone quite well – I started an A-Z of world food in London to get me out of a Thai food rut which I’ll continue with in 2013. Cooking has been mixed – there has been some culinary highs but sometimes during the week I’ve been a bit knackered to bother much. Hugh’s Everyday Veg book has been a revelation and provided many good meals. I also had a stint in the summer where I was obsessed about taking salads to the office which I loved.
Frugal – 5/10 – Able student that doesn’t apply herself; work to be done here.
Bad, bad, bad. Too much fun. I did though finally finish paying off loans and start saving money which is good. I also threw myself into understanding the world of mortgages. But I still not as thoughtful as I could be about my spending. I went to a great talk at the School of Life about Simple Living which was really interesting. Safe to say I have some way to go before I fully embrace my inner frugal bugal. I am however going to start a need/want list in January to see how I get on with that. You basically write down everything you spend categorized into a need or a want and then see how much you spend in each category after a month. The challenge in the next month is then to cut it by half.
So overall not too bad.
I’ve already started talking about a few things I’ve got planned for 2013. As always there are schemes, dreams and trips to plan. I know that there will always be more things I want to do than have time for, but one thing I want to do is make sure I’m really enjoying things. There are sometimes points in 2012 where weeks can feel like an endurance test because they are so busy! This year I want to keep things simple. Stop haring about quite so much and embrace my inner tortoise.
In the spirit of a tortoise I have a few s-l-o-w goals which are designed to make me stop and enjoy what I’m doing right now.
- Get more sleep – I’m very bad at going to bed so trying to remedy this.
- Write my morning pages again – I started this in 2011 and loved writing first thing in the morning as a good way of clearing my mind. This also links to my next aspiration…
- Write more – writing has always scared me, always been something I couldn’t do. I find it hard to put down in paper what is in my head and get frustrated often at the gap between the two.
- Do things that make me feel good– exercise, eating healthy food, paint my toenails, read a book in the bath.
- Listen to new music and go to more gigs
- Try something new every week (inspired by my We Are What We Do diary) – it might be go and look at a different painting in a gallery, a different craft, visit new place, eat something new. I loved some of things I did for my summer challenge and think it would be good to do it across the year. I’ll record what I do in my diary (of course) and I think it will give me something to reflect on how lovely my life in London is.
So here’s to 2013 and embracing our inner tortoises! Hope you have a fun-filled happy New Year.
*Top Photo taken by my Mum of the amazing Antony Gormley Another Place at Crosby Beach. Bottom photo taken by me in Camden!
I bought a new diary this weekend. It is gorgeous – purple cover, week to view, pages spare for to do lists. The promise of a new diary and new year always gives me a thrill. The fresh white pages waiting for adventures to be planned and lists to be made are so inviting. I have been thinking recently about what type of year I’d like, things I might want to do and plans are bubbling up inside me already.I’m not sure exactly what next year holds – maybe a flat move, definitely a trip to the Scillies but other than that nothing set in stone.I’m quite keen for a more domestic year, more pottering around, more reading & more creative fun. More time doing my thing really. Recently I’ve made fewer plans in the evenings, partly because I’ve had plumbing/mice/work dramas and partly because I’ve just given myself a breather to enjoy things and not constantly rushing around.
But tonight I decided to get the ball rolling on 2013 and to combat the winter gloom and booked a few new inspiring treats.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about writing this year – the craft behind it, the power of stories and the process that people go through to write. I watched the excellent Ian Rankin documentary which followed him writing over a 6 month period and found it fascinating. I want to practice writing a bit more and get freer with how I use words and put pen to paper. So, I’ve signed up to a introduction to creative writing course at City Lit and a conference about storytelling which I’m looking forward to immensely. To compliment this I’ve booked a couple of talks at the School of Life – one with Peter Tatchell, one with the man who set up Transition Towns and one about forests with Sara Maitland. I’ve been to a couple recently which I’ve enjoyed as a way to unwind after work and think about completely unusual subjects for a few hours. Finally, I booked tickets to see Patrick Wolf for a musical treat.
This strikes me as an excellent start to 2013 and some lovely things to do in January-March. All of these things have put a spring in my step and will adorn the pages of my gorgeous new diary!