Much of a muchness

Things that make you go 'hmm'…

Category Archives: Food

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.

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Old things, new things – snow joke, you know…

I had a quiet intro to the New Year which was nice as the week between Christmas and New Year was quite hectic. Since then, I have been busy doing things I don’t normally do. First I baked a cake for a friend’s birthday. It was his 60th so we decided to have a 60s themed dinner – prawn cocktails to start, coq au vin and then I volunteered to make a black forest gateau for dessert. I haven’t done any baking for YEARS but I was actually quite proud of the finished cake.

I have also been rather obsessed with another hobby I haven’t done for an even longer time – knitting. When I was first married and lived in Cardiff  (around 1978), my best friend, Jo, and I became passionate about knitting and after we had knitted ourselves waistcoats and sweaters, we then began knitting our (then) husbands, cardigans and sweaters too. Even more astonishingly though, THEY WORE THEM! And on a trip to Paris! It must have been love. We have all been digging out old photographs from those days recently and we found some pictures of the hideous creations we had knitted, thinking we all looked so cool and trendy. Bless. Anyway, I wanted some wrist warmers, and decided to have a go at knitting my own. I found this wool (Sirdar Crofter) which is patterned so that when you knit it up, it makes a sort of Fair Isle pattern which looks great.I finished the wrist warmers and decided to have a go at some socks and then some fingerless gloves. Here they are…

You may be wondering why the fixation with warm hands and feet? Well, you have read about or are experiencing the arctic conditions here in the UK. It is freezing cold. Most of the country is covered in a  deep blanket of snow and has been for weeks. Here in Bridport, we have had the freezing temperatures (-9℃) but NO SNOW! We were forecast to have a huge dump of snow a couple of nights ago. I woke up looked out the window and it was green as usual. There was a flurry of snow for about an hour later that morning but it was like teflon – it didn’t stick and within a short space of time, it had mostly disappeared. I know snow causes massive disruption and bother for a lot of people but it does look so magical and is such fun (for about an hour until the cold sets in) but we seem to be having all the nasty bits – the extreme cold and icy roads and none of the pretty fun bits. Here is a photo NASA took of the UK recently – strangely, you can’t see my green oasis.

A slightly ironic result of all this is that I decided I needed some new boots to wear in the snow (!) I ordered them online but they have not arrived as the shipment has been delayed by…you’ve guessed it, the snow.

I did venture out to see ‘Avatar -3D’ the other night. It was quite astonishing and I absolutely loved it. It’s a visual treat and the world of Pandora as imagined by the CGI artists is extraordinarily beautiful in every tiny detail. The 3D effects are really good and actually seem to be coming out of the screen at times. Go and see it on the biggest screen you can – and make sure you see the 3D version and not the 2D one! Here’s the trailer (which does not do it justice).

I’ll spare you the photo of me doing my best Elvis Costelloe impersonation in my 3D specs….

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!

Wedding bells…

I had a lovely weekend. I was invited to accompany a friend to his niece’s wedding and as I do like a good wedding, I dusted off my posh frock and my dancing shoes and accepted. I had promised to make the bride and groom a guest book for the the wedding guests to sign at the reception. This is what I came up with. The book spine is white leather and the cover image is printed onto Belgian linen ink jet bookcloth.

The wedding guest book

The wedding guest book

  • The book and its box
  • The book and its boxInside the book
  • The box

    The box

    The wedding was in a very beautiful and tiny church in Weymouth called St Anne’s. The service was really sweet as the vicar kept forgetting the groom’s name – not ideal, but luckily, he got it right at the crucial bits of the service. One of the readings was a Pam Ayres poem which brought the house down.

    Yes, I’ll Marry You

    Yes, I’ll marry you, my dear,
    And here’s the reason why;
    So I can push you out of bed
    When the baby starts to cry,
    And if we hear a knocking
    And it’s creepy and it’s late,
    I hand you the torch you see,
    And you investigate.

    Yes, I’ll marry you, my dear,
    You may not apprehend it,
    But when the tumble-drier goes
    It’s you that has to mend it,
    You have to face the neighbour
    Should our labrador attack him,
    And if a drunkard fondles me
    It’s you that has to whack him.

    Yes, I’ll marry you,
    You’re virile and you’re lean,
    My house is like a pigsty
    You can help to keep it clean.
    That sexy little dinner
    Which you served by candlelight,
    As I do chipolatas,
    You can cook it every night!

    It’s you who has to work the drill
    and put up curtain track,
    And when I’ve got PMT it’s you who gets the flak,
    I do see great advantages,
    But none of them for you,
    And so before you see the light,
    I do, I do, I do!

    The vicar also included my ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ quotation (which I am reading at my god daughter’s wedding in October) in his sermon. It sounded good, so I am busy rehearsing for when I have to stand up in public and read it – gulp. It will be a bit ‘curly’ as my ex will be there too – a bit strange for me to be extolling the virtues of married love but – hey ho, has to be done.

    Lulworth Castle

    The wedding reception was held at Lulworth Castle, which is actually a mock castle. It was built as a hunting lodge in 1610 by Thomas Howard but it was destroyed in a fire in 1929 and left as a roofless ruin. In the 70’s a restoration was begun which was completed in 1998. It is fascinating, the ground floor has been renovated but the upper floors have not been replaced. It was re-roofed and the walls cleaned so as you stand inside you can see the full height of the building above you and see fireplaces, doors and windows which were in rooms far above you. One of the towers has a spiral staircase which takes you up onto the roof to see the spectacular views of the surrounding parkland to the sea as far as Poole harbour.

    During the afternoon, we went outside to watch a display of jousting which was great fun. Here are some photographs of the afternoon.

    Such a fun day – and the only sunny day of the whole weekend, so doubly blessed. I hope the weather is as kind at the wedding in October.

    I’ve spent the time since then re-writing my friend Claire’s web site and giving it a bit of a revamp. Last week, she discovered that her old website had been blocked by Google. It turned out that it had been hacked and big chunks of it had been overwritten with malicious code. When I had removed the code, it was easier to write her a new website than try and resurrect the old one. You can see the results and read what Claire has been up to here.

    claireheading

    I should have been busy this week making an album for my #2 son. He wanted me to make him one using all the photographs that he and his three friends took during their four months of travelling in South East Asia earlier this year. They are having great difficulty deciding on which photographs to include – they have managed to edit it down to 2000 so far, so I’m not holding my breath :-)

    travels

    Finally, news of Milo. After his ordeal at the kennels, I had to take him to the dog groomers. The only way to sort out the matted knots in his coat was to give him a severe haircut – he has been shorn naked! Poor thing looks like a demented poodle. Here are before and after pics. At least his hair will grow I suppose…

    Milo and his favourite toy

    P1010018

    Some things never change

    When I was first married, we lived in Cardiff and our best friends were a couple, Richard and Glynis, who have remained our friends for over thirty years. I am godmother to their daughter (hence the wedding reading – she is getting married in October) and Richard is the godfather to my #1 son. In 1983, my husband, our 4 month old son and I, went to live in Kuwait for three years and during this time, we kept in touch with our friends back in the UK, sending birthday cards etc. One year, on my birthday in early November, I received the following card from them.

    card

    Inside, it said ‘I’ve looked absolutely everywhere for a used birthday card that has flowers on the outside and money on the inside. Maybe next year. OK?

    I sent it back to Glynis whose birthday is at the end of November, with the message ‘Found the card but still no money’ and thus a tradition was born. The card came back for Gavin’s birthday in April and we sent it back for Richard’s in May and so it has gone on for 26 years, sometimes getting lost, but always turning up again. We lost Gavin and Glynis from the rotation when both couples split up and so Richard and I continue to send the card back and forth. It has had extra sheets attached but remains intact and has just winged it’s way back to Cardiff for Richard’s birthday. Long may it continue!

    card2

    My #2 son arrived back from his travels safely last week. He arrived in Dorset on Thursday accompanied by his girlfriend. It was so wonderful to see him in one piece I can’t tell you! One of his travelling companions caught dengue fever while in Kuala Lumpur. Luckily, she has recovered but it was very worrying. He was thinner but otherwise healthy and he arrived bearing gifts – a gorgeous leather handbag. I am so thrilled with it that I shan’t object if he wants to go travelling again. As my friend Claire said the other day ‘I think I might have had more children if I’d realized they could one day provide so generously for me’. Quite. We went to my favourite restaurant in these here parts (in fact it’s my favourite restaurant in any parts) The Riverside at West Bay and he insisted on paying for lunch for us all. Love it.

    On Saturday, I was invited to go and see an outdoor production of ‘The Barber of Seville’ in Abbotsbury. The plan was to meet up with friends, have a picnic then watch the opera. We managed the picnic but as we sat watching the opera, the heavens opened and we were all good and soaked. It was the first rain we have had for weeks and I felt so sorry for the singer playing Rosina because she was wearing a very flimsy costume and must have been frozen to death, the wind was really cold. They carried on gamely and even incorporated the man who came on at intervals to mop the rain off the stage, into the action. I must confess that during the interval, we took shelter, broke out the picnic again and listened from afar.

    opera

    I’m amazed that you can’t see the driving rain in this photograph but you can tell by the number of umbrellas belonging to the hardy souls who sat it out, just how wet it was.

    The book

    The book

    Today, I have had news from Jemima. You might remember the wonderful illustrations she did for the book ‘Roverandom’ by J.R.R.Tolkien, (which I helped her bind for her university final project). She has just had a meeting with the Publishing Director of Harper Collins who publish all Tolkien’s work. He loves her illustrations and wants to re-publish Roverandom using her illustrations! She has left the book with them and they are going to show it to Christopher Tolkien who is J.R.R’s son, as they have to have his permission to use them in the book. Even if he doesn’t approve, they want to use her illustrations in future projects. Brilliant news, Jemima!

    I’m off again next Sunday. I fly to Corfu for 10 days of sailing with my lovely sister and her husband. The day after I return, it is Glastonbury so I will be there for a weekend of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash, Blur, Madness, Status Quo, Lily Allen, Spinal Tap……. (see full line up here)

    I love my life.