Much of a muchness

Things that make you go 'hmm'…

Category Archives: Families

A very good trip…

I decided at fairly short notice, that I needed to go to London. My #2 son and two friends have just moved into a new flat, I needed to have a meeting with a client about the jewellery website I am designing for him and last but not least, my ex was in town (not in itself a reason to rush up to town but he was bringing some bookcloth from the US for me…) so a trip to London was in order. I decided to travel by train and as some of you might have read (and the rest of you may have heard me complaining from wherever you are reading this!) the train fare to travel from Dorset to London and back the next day was £96. £96!!! Ridiculous. Yes, I now know if I had booked weeks in advance I could have got it much cheaper but I didn’t know I wanted to go weeks ago! I could have flown to the Mediterranean a couple of times for less than that – and it wasn’t even First Class. Anyway, rant over.

My son’s flat is in Shoreditch, near Spitalfields Market – an area of London which has become very smart, full of great places to eat (we ate at St John Bread and Wine – highly recommended), design studios, art galleries and shops. At the same time it is full of history – it’s ‘Jack the Ripper’ territory – scene of the famous Whitechapel Murders and many of the pubs and places associated with these infamous times are still standing and included in many of the “Jack the Ripper’ tours in the area.  Spitalfields  (probably a contraction of ‘hospital fields’) was home to a large community of Huguenots who fled France in 1685 following the treaty of Nantes and who settled in the area bringing their silk weaving skills. They built beautiful houses, many of which are still standing. My favourite street was Fournier Street which has been restored beautifully and these homes are now worth a FORTUNE.

Fournier Street

Opposite this street is the beautiful Christ Church built by Nicholas Hawkesmoor

Christ Church, Spitalfields

The area is also home to a large Bangladeshi community centred around Brick Lane, famous for its market and curry houses. I love that the street signs are in English and Bangladeshi.

On the corner of Fourner Street and Brick Lane there is a mosque – the Jamme Masjid or Great London Mosque which has in its time been a Huguenot chapel, which then became The  Jewish Chapel (for promoting Christianity to the large Jewish population in the area) then it became a Methodist chapel, then it was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath (or Spitalfields Great Synagogue) and then finally a mosque. What a testament to multiculturalism.

The Jamme Masjid

As you wander the streets , you can’t help but notice the amazing graffiti on the walls. Apparently Brick Lane is world famous for this street art (some done by the mysterious and secretive street artist Banksy). Here’s a small sample.

My favourite piece was carved out of a wall which had been painted black then painted white on top, by exposing the different colours they had carved this image – not sure if it is technically graffiti or not but so clever. You can click on this one a couple of times to enlarge to see the detail.

We also passed this on our tour – a shoe tree. No idea what it is all about but very silly none the less.

So all in all, a wonderful visit (and if I’m honest well worth £96.) Back home now and putting the finishing touches to the jewellery website (will tell you about it when it’s launched) and looking forward to beginning the wedding album for my god daughter and her husband, using the beautiful book cloth brought over from Paper Source in the US by my ex. I adore Paper Source but they wanted $115 to ship a $63 order. Please Paper Source, open up in the UK or at least sort your shipping costs out. Sheesh.

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?

Well, I have just returned from another trip – this time to Switzerland.  Zurich to be precise. Schindellegi to be even more precise. It’s a small town sitting above Lake Zurich. Very pretty but unfortunately shrouded in fog most of the time I was there. I knew the lake was there but didn’t see it from the town until the last evening when the sun came out and the lake appeared miraculously from the mist. My friend and I visited Rapperswill which was a very beautiful old medieval town on the lake with an avenue of wonderfully weird pollarded chestnut trees along the water’s edge. We also went to see the astonishingly beautiful Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln which is ornately decorated with frescoes and stucco work inside.

We went to Crans Montana for the weekend. On a map it looks as if it is about an hour away until you realise that there is a huge mountain range in the way and the journey actually takes 3 1/2 hours but as always it is well worth the trip. The sun came out and the views from up the mountain across the Rhone Valley are quite breath taking. Here is a slide show of my favourite Swiss images from my Flickr photographs. You are spared the image of me head first in a bank of snow after parting company with my toboggan, as fortunately, no-one had a camera to hand….

Happy blog birthday to me!

While I was away, my blog celebrated its 3rd birthday. Although it is a shadow of its former self (when I started, I blogged every day and continued to do so for about 18 months or so) it soldiers on and I suppose as long as there are enough of you good people prepared to read it (for which I thank you very much indeed), I will continue. It does provide a wonderful excuse to down tools and think back over my week and decide what is worth remembering, noting down and even cherishing. Looking back over this blog I am reminded of music, films, videos, news, cartoons and illustrations that I would have long forgotten about (what with my memory being as shot away as it seems to be) so it functions as a superior ‘aide-memoir’ if nothing else! I do appreciate those of you who take time out to visit and comment on my posts.

On this note, here are a couple of things that have pleased me this week, one is a great track from Blur that perfectly describes how my life seems to be – whizzing past at a rate of knots, (March already?!) with the great danger that I don’t take time to stop and ‘smell the roses’. (Thanks to ‘Papersurfer’ for reminding me of it)

I watched the movie ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ again this weekend and fell in love with Javier Bardem all over again. The man is a god. (He is also the second most popular search term that people use to find my blog so no harm in mentioning him again, is there?) And the answer is – yes. I would be off to Oviedo like a shot….

While I’m at it, I might as well mention THE most popular search term is……*drum roll* …..Sylvie Guillem. She is quite simply stunning. Enough said, see for yourself. Russel Maliphant is pretty amazing too…

Maybe I should just turn this into a ‘celebrity news’ blog and be done with it. Or shall I just talk about George Clooney over and over again? (Cue gratuitous photograph of the man himself…)


Back in the real world, my gorgeous god-daughter visited this weekend to discuss the wedding album I am going to make for her and her husband. We looked through nearly 900 wedding photographs trying to decide which should go into the album – not an easy task. Then we had to choose materials to match her wedding stationery. I am now on a mission to get the website I am working on finished so I can begin her album. So having had my ‘timeout’ for today, I am going to get back to work after a thoroughly self indulgent post…



Where there’s a Will….

I’ve just returned from Stratford on Avon. It was my sister’s birthday. A BIG birthday made all the more disconcerting because she is my younger sister and the less reminders I have the of how old I am, the better! I made her an album for her birthday, which involved the inevitable trawl through old family photographs. The bad hair do’s, the shocking clothes, Memory Lane can be quite a terrifying place to walk down. I also dug out some old home movie footage which was originally Super 8 film which I had transferred onto DVD. Quite hilarious. Memories of so many family outings –  I can only think that every time my dad said ‘Do something for the camera’, we flung ourselves off whatever rock or wall we were standing on onto a beach or we did a cartwheel. In Scotland, in Wales, in Cornwall, in our garden – always the same. Here is a photograph of me and two of my three sisters (presumably just before we threw ourselves off the sea wall at Blackpool). I’m the tallest and birthday girl is the cutie in the middle.

This is the album I made for her.

We had a lovely family party at a hotel just outside Stratford on Avon. Yesterday, we had a very quick trip into Stratford to see the sights. It always astonishes me that William Shakespeare’s birthplace is still standing there on a busy shopping street.

We had a very quick walk along the River Avon by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is undergoing a huge renovation project so it is currently covered in scaffolding and camouflage. It normally looks like this

but at the moment looks like this

Here are a few more shots of the visit.

This last guy was one of those performance artists who stood as still as a statue until someone approached him to take his photograph and then he leaped off his box and frightened the life out of them. I’m not sure Will would have approved.

To round off, (tenuous link alert) this is a calligram I did a few years ago. I repeated the phrase ‘As You Like It’ to make this image of the great man himself. Click on it to enlarge.

Excuses, excuses

Well, the huge mountain of ‘things that need doing’ which I have been trying to run away from (and which must be attached to me by a long length of elastic) has finally smacked me in the back of the head and I have been forced into doing something about it. Consequently, I have been working on the e-commerce web site I am designing for a friend and am almost cross eyed with the twin joys of html and css. The site will eventually sell hand crafted jewellery and the other thing I have been doing this week (and continue to do) is processing dozens and dozens and dozens of photographs (which I confess up front – I took) which are basically not very good so they need lots of TLC and Photoshop to make them useable. Removing backgrounds, adjusting colours, removing specks (hint- always clean computer screen before starting THIS job) cropping and more cropping – it has been endless. Still, I think it is taking shape and starting to look very good (even if I do say so myself.)

So not much else to report. I am continuing to post a photograph to my 365pix project every day because that is quick and easy but I may have to go AWOL here for a bit while I concentrate on getting the web site finished. Sorry I’m not checking out your blogs at the moment too. Anyway to avoid this post being a complete waste of time for you, here are a few random things I found today while I was putting off starting work (still procrastinating)

  • I read this on the BBC web site today.

“In 1778, the third Duke of Chandos arranged a christening for his new-born son. The whole of fashionable society, including the Royal Family, was invited, and the Duke commissioned a lavishly embroidered christening robe. At the moment of baptism the child was uncovered and found to have suffocated under weight of the robe, upon which the Duke died of shock.”

  • I have already put this on my Facebook page, it never fails to make me smile, so I am adding here too. Love it.
  • I found this photograph yesterday of my youngest son when he was tiny. I adore it..

That’s it. Back to work!

Festive guzzlings…

Christmas has been a very ‘moveable feast’. It started with a whistlestop visit ‘oop North’-ish to visit my family which was fun. They were all terribly organised and handed over Christmas cards. I hadn’t even written mine as I had lost my address book, I might have missed some folk off my list :-(   All the internet savvy amongst my friends, who send emails, are in my address book on the computer but the others were doomed to not receive one. I wonder if they noticed? I posted them at the last minute anyway so they probably didn’t arrive in time.

Another lovely cartoon from Dave Walker at cartoonchurch.com.

We had a lovely Christmas morning (once I had prised my sons out of bed) and I was well pleased with the gifts I received, my #2 son bought me a beautiful gold pendant which is a leaf skeleton cast in gold – quite beautiful. My other son bought me a copy of Wii Fit Plus amongst other things. I suspect he is trying to tell me something. Copies of Michael MacIntyres DVD were exchanged – I reckon every household in the UK must have at least 2 copies of his DVD right now… but it is SO funny. Here’s a taster.

I spent the rest of Christmas day with some dear friends in Somerset, who always take pity on my non-vegan son and I and invite us over for Christmas dinner. My vegan son usually heads off to Bristol (clutching the nut roast I have made for him) to spend the afternoon with his vegan buddies. We turkey guzzlers had a fab time and ate far too much as usual but hey! it’s Christmas! The next morning, I went to Cardiff to visit friends there for a couple of days. We had a wonderful time – ate far too much again, and on my return to Dorset, a couple of friends and my son’s girlfriend arrived and we have been eating and drinking and eating, ever since. Roll on the New Year and the annual diet/get fit regime.

We went to see the new Sherlock Holmes film yesterday (having tried unsuccessfully to get in to see ‘Avatar 3D’) and I loved it. The recreation of Victorian London is amazing and the lovely Robert Downey Jr is a gorgeous, hunky Sherlock Holmes, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, talking of hunky men, I have another very pleasant duty to perform. My #2 son, Ben and his friend Tom, are starting their own business. It’s called Mylo Design and they are setting up a design agency which will connect aspiring young designers who would otherwise find it hard to obtain work, with businesses who need branding and visual communications projects completed to a high standard – without paying high established design agency fees. They are approaching design students and newly qualified designers to join them

‘Becoming a Mylo designer will give you the best opportunity to immerse yourself in the creative industry, improving your portfolio and skills whilst getting paid for the work you put in. On top of this, the Mylo team will do its best to guide their designers towards getting the best out of themselves, providing all the relevant resources and support needed to become a notable force within design.’

There will also be an associated social network site where the young designers can ask advice, chat to each other and take part in forums discussing design issues. They also plan to have online tutorials and resources available.

It’s a brilliant idea and I’m sure that it will be a success. So if you know any young web or graphic designers who might be interested, let them know about Mylo Design. They also have a Facebook fan page for those of you who do FB, and already have 342 fans.

So tomorrow is the last day of 2009. The end if the ‘Noughties’ and a new decade begins. Even though it doesn’t seem five minutes since the party we held to celebrate the new millennium  and such a lot has happened in the interim – when it was good it was very, very good and when it was bad, it was horrid. So I hope 2010 is a good year for you all, I’m hoping for very good things (although I just pulled a wishbone with Ben and he got the good half) but still, I remain an optimist :-)

Have a great time tomorrow and Happy New Year!