A Wolf for Dinner

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January 21, 2015

To celebrate the eagerly anticipated (by me at least) arrival of Wolf Hall to our screens tonight, I have snuffled out some Tudor recipes for you to try and munch on, whilst watching the BBC do what it does best.

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Cookery books were starting to emerge during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, however many people during this time would have been unable to read, and so recipes were passed down largely by word of mouth and hands-on teaching. Methods of heating food would have been temperamental and unique to each kitchen, so cooks needed to be skilled in managing the quirks of their own equipment – a tradition that was still evident in my Grandma’s methods of cooking even fairly recently. Measurements and scales were little used, and again cooks would have known the quantities of ingredients specific to their own recipes, judged using bowls, jugs and dishes.

What you ate depended largely on who you were. Certain ingredients, such as spices and sugar were very expensive, and so recipes making lavish use of these items were probably not for Mr and Mrs Joe Blogge, but rather the wealthier echelons of society.

All in all Tudor cooks were pretty clever cookies (excuse the pun), with an extensive set skills and a wealth of learned knowledge gleaned from untold hours of laborious preparation. Thankfully someone had the foresight to write some of these wonderful recipes down and the below are all taken from ‘A Proper New Booke of Cookery’, published in 1575 (technically making it Elizabethan, but we’re all friends here).

I just love the phrasing in some of these instructions, it’s so friendly. I’ve tried to not make too many amendments to the text, because interpeting and understanding the language is half the fun of historical documents. I have however added a few pointers in brackets and broken up the sentence structure slightly for ease.

So, here are some of my favourite recipes: Pigeon Pie, Chicken Pie, Apple Pie, A Dishful of Snow and finally Eggs in Moonshine (I know, too sweet isn’t it?)

To bake pigeons in short paste (pastry) as you make to your baken Apples.

Season your Pigeons with Pepper, Saffron, Cloves and Mace, with veriuyce (a sour, acidic fruit juice of unripe grapes or crab apples – I imagine lemon juice would work just as well) and salt. Then put them into your paste (pastry), and so close them up, and bake them. They will bake in halfe an houre, then take them foorth, and if ye thinke them dry, take a litle veriuyce and butter, and put to them, and so serve them.

To bake Chickins in like paste (pastry).

Take your chickens & season them with a litle ginger & salt, and so put them into your coffin (love this term for a pastry case), & so put in them barberries, grapes, or goseberies, & halfe a dish of buttter, so close them up, & set them in the oven, & when they are baken, take the yolkes of vi. egges, and a dishful of veriuyce, and drawe them through a strainer, and set them upon a chafingedyshe (I guess a double boiler would suffice). Then draw your baken chikens, and put therto this foresayd egges and veriuyce and thus serue them hotte.

To make pies of greene Apples.

Take your Apples and pare them cleane, and core them as ye wil a quince (love it).
Then make your coffin after this manner – take a litle fayre water (clean water), and halfe a fishe of butter, and a litle Saffron, and set all this upon a chafindyshe, tyll it bee hote. Then temper your flower with this sayd licour, and the white of two egges, & also make your coffin. Season your Apples with Cinamon, Ginger and Sugar inough. Then put them into your coffin, and bake them.

To make a dishefull of Snow.

Take a pottel of sweete thick creame and the white of 8 egges, and beate them altogether with a spone. Then put them in your creame, and a saucer full of rose water, and a dishe full of suger withal. Then take a stycke and make it cleane, and then cutte it in the ende foure square (whisk), and therewith beat all the aforesaide things together, and ever as ut riseth (beat until fluffy and risen), take it of, and put it into a Collander. This done, take an apple and set it in the middes of it, and a thicke bush of Rosemarye. Set it in the middes of the platter, then cast your snowe upon the Rosemarye, and fyll your platter therwith. And if you have wafers, cast some in withall, & thus serve them forth.

To make egges in mone shine.

Take a dishe of rose water, and a dishefull of suger, and set them upon a chafingdish, and let them boile. Then take the yolkes of 8. or 9. egges newlaid, and put them therto, every one from other, and so let them harden a little. And so after this maner serve them forth, and cast a little Cinnamon and suger.

Nom!

xx


2015 – A Look Ahead

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January 18, 2015

It is 2015! It has been for eighteen days now but I’m in catch up mode. At the start of every New Year I like to mark out some of the major events occuring over the coming twelve months to get a flavour of the sort of year it will be. 2012 was sporty-scone baking British pride bonanza, 2013 was the year that this fair blog was born and 2014 had a distinctly World Cuppy-turning thirty- holiday-of-a-lifetimey-best-summer-in-living-memory-writing-a-dissertation kind of vibe to it.

vintage woman writing

How does 2015 feel at a glance?

Well there’s not much international sport about for a starter which usually serves as the solid spine to my year. Thank god for F1 and Saturday football otherwise I would be proper grumpy. There are also no big anniversaries celebrating national institutions like Big Ben or David Attenborough. So it seems that 2015 will be bereft of national hysteria for me to get swept up in (read – no extra bank holidays to spend milling about in a park, wearing a tea dress and drinking Bulmer’s, unless we get one for the royal bump of course.) In years such as this where the powers that be selfishly fail provide us with suitable distractions, it falls to us as individuals to entertain ourselves. Where will we go? What will we do?

Museums of course! My other great love and time sucker – because heaven forfend I might actually go to a bar and spend time talking to people. There is a truckload of stuff going on in the capitals museums this year, exhibitions for days! There is also some quite good telly and cinema kicking about. As such I will spend much of 2015 looking at pretty things in display cases but also looking towards achieving some of those personal goals that I’ve set for myself, well I might as well, s’not much else to do *kicks pebble*.

2015 will be the year of cleaning house, literally (I’ve spent a small fortune on Ikea storage solutions recently) and metaphorically with relation to my mind, body and soul. No, scrap soul, career, I want my career to kickass this year, my soul can come along for the ride and will, I am sure, enjoy the view. So while I’m engaging in all of this personal kickassery what is going to keep me smiling? Well stuff a bit like this really…

Now – Vera Brittain’s seminal work Testament of Youth gets a big screen release. Staring Kit ‘you know nothing Jon Snow’ Harrington and Alicia Vikander as Vera, it recounts her experiences of a generation wasted on war.

21st January – More screen watching pleasure in the form of Wolf Hall, which arrives in our living rooms curtesy of BBC2. I’m really very excited by this, not only because Hillary Mantel is obviously bloody amazing but also because I just really want to see Damien Lewis as Henry VIII, fine piece of casting there methinks.

February 1st – Super Bowl Sunday! I know that recently people have spent a lot of time bemoaning Americanisms manifesting themselves within British society such as Black Friday and… well umm… just that really, Black Friday seemed to really p’ people off. BUT! Super Bowl Sunday has become something of a tradition in our house over the years and provides me with the perfect opportunity to do what I do best which is showing people I care by feeding them themed menus. Yes, we stay up with friends until five am, eat our bodyweight in macaroni cheese and generally understand very little of what’s going on until the half time show kicks off.

22nd Feb – Oscars – With slightly less of a budget and with fewer t-shirt cannons than the Super Bowl, the Oscars comes rolling in to town in late February. Generally I stay up to watch this too, but because I suffer from crippling embarrassment by proxy I spend most of the night hiding behind a cushion while people make terrible jokes that fall flat or *shudders* start to cry – ah live television, the bane of my life as an easily mortified Brit.

GraceKellly

5th March – 31st Aug – Fashion on the Ration. I am really looking forward to this I have to say. Fashion on the Ration starts up at the Imperial War Museum in March and looks at, well the flipping name says it all really – it looks at fashion in wartime; the wheres, whys and hows of women’s style during a time of extreme thrift. Between you, me and the gatepost I can’t wait to see what merch turns up in the museum shop either.

14th March – 19th July – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V and A. Two words to bear in mind with this one peoples: book and early. I can see this being a sell out due to the messiah-like following McQueen garners and also the relatively short run. Tickets are on sale now so do yourself a favour and snap some up so that you can feel comfortably smug for a few months.

8th May – Advanced Style cinema release. If you have been living a cupboard Harry Potter style for the last five years the Advanced Style phenomenon may have slipped you by. For everyone else the documentary is finally coming out in the UK on May 8th! It feels like forever that I’ve been waiting to see this. I have a friend who saw it last year and the high they got from the incredible spirits of the women presented was really potent. For a healthy dose of the feel goods to refill your kickass engine reserves, go and buy some delicious and expensive chocolates, sit in the dark and watch this joy, it will nourish your soul.

22nd May – 29th Aug – Riviera Style Resort and Swimwear Since 1900 at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I am going to go to this whilst carrying a sunlamp and sipping white wine to relive my fabulous Rivera tour of last summer. This is so up my street I could cry or scream or something. Literally cannot wait. Who wants to come with me? I’ll bring the Campari.

23rd May – Eurovision. Well the third week in May is going to rock hard. Not only is the Rivera exhibition kicking off but the very next day is the Eurovision final!! Worth the license fee alone. The dry ice! The cheating! The chance to indulge in yet another themed menu to inflict upon my poor guests! Anyone know any good Austrian recipes?

29th June – 12th July – Wimbledon! FINALLY SOME SPOOOOOOOOOORT! Interesting fact, I live around the corner from Fred Perry’s old house. It is a perfect late 1920s suburban detached, possibly three bed, on a nice corner of a nice street in a nice part of London. I love to think of him closing the front door, sports bag in hand, hopping in the car and making the journey across the river to Wimbledon where he would take on the great and the good of the tennis world. I feel I owe it to that little house to this year get a ticket, wear a lovely 1930’s garden dress and eat strawberries in the sunshine.

2nd July – Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon- National Portrait Gallery. The title is utterly fitting. She was and still is an icon and I simply cannot wait for this exhibition, and not merely for the chance to stare at sixty images of her lovely fawn face.

Audrey_Hepburn

11th -19th September 2015 – International Agatha Christie Festival. Like Wimbledon, the International Agatha Christie Festival is one event I’ve been meaning to attend since I first heard about it many years ago. This year I am going to ruddy do it. If I can get my ass to New Zealand and back (twice), I can get to Torquay for a week in September. Again – if anyone would like to join me just shout and we’ll have a whale of a time drinking tea, solving crimes and stalking Poirot.

15th October – Not only is this day my big sister’s birthday, it is also the opening of Lee Miller, A Woman’s War at the Imperial War Museum. This exhibit explores the impact of the Second World War on the lives of women via the photographic work of Lee Miller, one of the most important war photographers of her time.

Christmas Time – tba – Sherlock Christmas Special! Yes, the obligatory five-decade long wait between series of Sherlock will be rewarded during Christmas 2015 when a special Christmas ep. will air as a precursor to season four. Bailey’s and blankets at the ready!

So altogether not a bad little year from the looks of things. Let’s get cracking on it.

xx


An Empty Space

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January 5, 2015

 

There seems to be a lot of empty space at the moment. Here on the blog I haven’t been able to do a post in a while. This was mostly due to assorted Christmas mayhem and working seven days a week.

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Then, quite out of the blue there came another empty space which is still so gaping that it has spun my world around. It is in the shape of someone who wasn’t able to ring in 2015 with us all. My family and I suffered a very close, sudden and sad loss this holiday season and so instead of doing all of those new-year-new-start activities I had planned- diary organising, clean eating, water drinking, goal achieving, I am in fact sitting in a small apartment in Hong Kong, surrounded by packing boxes with a large, loud, funny and utterly unique shadow missing from the wall.

I know life will resume in the future. I will travel home in a few days, go to work, feed the cats and what have you. I know the empty space will fill up with warmth little by little and all of the sharp edges will be rounded off. But I just wanted to let you know that the empty spaces on this blog aren’t permanent and will fade in the coming weeks. It’s just that at the moment a more special empty space deserves my attention.


Organise to Optimise

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December 4, 2014

 

 I bore myself saying it so I certainly must be boring you by now but I am busy. Buuuuusssy. Did I tell you I was busy? How am I? I’m busy. I don’t have much time for many of life’s luxuries like washing or sleeping right now but through the wonders of modern technology I allowed myself an indulgent five minutes to read this new post by Gala Darling today. Cyber-blogging-lifestye-lusting-consumerism or whatever the proper term is, is alive and well in me it seems as within about seven minutes I had bought myself a new Filofax. Well what’s the point in working all hours if you can’t spend your hard earned cash on something nice that you really want? I mean I really did want it. For like a whole two minutes before I bought it. It’s agony wanting something for so long I tell you.

Pretty aint she? And in my favourite midnight/royal blue hue. Aaaaaand I found it for 50% off here…Click!… it was meant to be I tell you. Aaaaaaaaand, oh crikey I suppose I should put in a disclaimer here after all my hand wringing over the last year about not wearing leather shoes due to being a veggie: Well folks I’m eating meat again temporarily. Basically I needed the energy and iron while I was doing Whole 30 because I felt mighty weak the last time I tried doing the program without. It won’t be a long term thing and I feel bloody awful about it but I am also a pragmatist, so I figured I couldn’t have any major moral objections about buying a leather organiser when I have four steaks sitting in my fridge at the moment.

I can’t wait to get my mitts on it and get all ‘New Year organised’. Lists, goals, plans for the year ahead! That and highlighting the bumper edition of the Radio Times the best part of Christmas!!! Right guys!? Guys??? Ahem…

Anyway, I now have to stop myself from endlessly staring at crafty ways to personalise my organiser on Pinterest because guess what? I don’t have time!

 

 


Life in the Living Room

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November 14, 2014

Lifey life, life life. Ever changing, ever unexpected. At least mine seems to be. For those of you who are lovely enough to check in here on a regular basis you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a little while. Not ages or anything, I haven’t left the blog home alone with just a dish of water and some kibble (whatever that is) while I swan off to Lanzarote for two weeks. No, it’s just been a bit longer than I feel happy with. I usually try to post about three times a week when regular service is in operation, once a week when things get busy. But recently things have been very, very busy.

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I have started new job which is very fun, exciting and loosely history related but in quite a different way. I’m not trying to be purposefully elusive but I’m just not really allowed to say much, especially on such a public platform. Suffice it to say, I’m spending a few months working with some great people on a great job, which I’ll be able to discuss more in the future. I also decided to keep my job at the Imperial War Museum because well, frankly I like it there and didn’t want to leave. Whilst having two great jobs that you enjoy is in no way a burden it does mean that I am working seven days a week until about March next year. The first week was a bit of an adjustment where I was trying to figure out my routine and how to fit a life around 11 hour workdays, and squeezing in writing two PhD proposals just to spice things up further. This week however I feel very much in my stride. To be honest I hate twiddling my thumbs. I’m used to being busy and I run at my best when I’m slightly overstretched. Just slightly, let’s not go crazy now. I am also currently doing the Whole 30 again this month, which I last completed in June and I think it is really helping with my energy levels. If I was to do what I usually do when I’m busy, which is basically just living off of coffee and cereal, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day without a cat nap in the car. It seems then that I may have to Whole 30-it for the foreseeable – with a small but crucial interlude of Christmas naturally – I’m not a frickin masochist!

Really, the thing I’m worried about more than anything is keeping this place healthy. I don’t want it to get forgotten in amongst all of the hecticness. So, to nip any pangs of abandonment anxiety in the bud right away, this place is getting a dose of good old fashioned – ‘life at home shots’.

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We always seem to have a stack of pictures to hang piled somewhere in the house, to the point that they have become a little art instalation in their own right now. T dumpred this Christmas wreath in our umbrella stand after last year and it looks so pretty it’s stayed there.

AThe Guardian of the Window Sill. He has a twin ont he other side.

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Collection of dried flowers I have hanging in the living room, some are from friends wedding bouquets, some are roses I’ve recieved, I just keep adding to it and it grows ever prettier.

eMy personal seal of approval and two versions of Crabtree and Evelyn Noel – one of my favourite scents ever. It reminds me of my childhood home and is a Christmas essential.

cThe remaining feathers that haven’t been sacrificed to the cat gods.

These sorts of pictures are generally my favourite posts on the blogs I read. Maybe it’s because I’m a nosey so-and-so but I like to think it goes a little deeper as well. I guess I  really just like seeing people happy, with a place to call home full of warmth and things and people that they love. It’s the reason I like walking home at this time of year because people invariably forget to close their curtains and you can peep into their cosy, cinnamon scented worlds for a moment of mundane peace – making dinner, watching television, playing with the dog on the rug. These are the moments that matter really, above and beyond the dressing up in pretty outfits and going somewhere opulent (although don’t get me wrong, that’s a pretty fabulous thread in the fabric of life too). But day to day life is often infinitely better; someone bringing you an apple from the café at lunchtime, not because you asked for one but just because they saw it and know you like them and they love you. Your mum making a two hour round trip to see you for fifteen minutes on your tea break because that’s the only time you had spare all week. Or your cat, who is normally a bit squirmy, sitting in your arms for a full two minutes and purring because you’ve been out of the house so much recently and she misses you. All of these things made up my week, and these are the things that sustain me, that make me. These moments are what make our days, our lives and us and I like to think that’s why I like looking in people’s windows. Also I am pretty bloody nosey.

x

xxxx


Whizz, Bang, Pop!

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November 5, 2014

Happy Bonefire’s Night Everyone!

I hope you are all full of toffee apples and smell like sparklers.

Wrap up more snuggly than these two beauties.

xx


Boo 2

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October 31, 2014

So if my calculations are correct most people should be on their way home from school or work and about to crack open that face paint and fake blood? Am I right?

I hope so, I think the getting ready is one of the best parts of Halloween night, especially as a child. As such, in what is becoming something of an annual tradition, I’ve made a playlist of spooky tunes to get you all in the mood for whatever you are up to tonight.

Boo!!!!!!!!!

Happy Halloween goulies!


70s Witch

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October 29, 2014

I had an urge to watch Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows a little while ago. If truth be known I wasn’t really blown away the first time I saw it, but a second viewing really made me fall in love with it, particularly the costumes which had slightly passed me by before. They. Are. Amazing. I’ve been through numerous clothing phases in my life, influenced by different eras and references, and now feel that I’m just some mix of all of them. But one constant throughout most looks has always been what I like to refer to (in the eloquent words of Nancy Spungen) as ‘fuckin’ Stevie Knicks in hippie clothes’. This was confirmed to me by my dear friend when we were deconstructing our personal styles to each other the other day (because that’s what real friends do people), and she said that to her I’d always been some Wednesday Addamsy-witchy-20s-bohmeianny-60s-hippy-Kate-Bushy-kind of thing. Or something to that effect, which I placed firmly in my ego engine and skipped along on my way with.

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It’s quite true. I have always been influenced by 60s and 70s psychedelia fashions in some way, even if I didn’t know that’s what it was. As an 11 year old this was manifest in my impressive collection of long tie-dye crinkle skirts that my mother had to lovingly twist out over the bath in order for them for retain their alluring rumpled ridges. At about twenty-odd, I fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites and tried in vain to grow my hair as long as a Waterhouse sea nymph. Then it was all about the 1910s-20s bohemia, with lots of velvet, lace and beading, which to my mind is a predecessor of the embellished swathes of fabric and tassels synonymous with the late 60s and early 70s. One of my greatest purchases at this time was a purple sequin kaftan that I acquired from the CND shop on the Holloway Road for five of the Queen’s pounds and subsequently wore to most social events I was invited to between 2005-2008. This also, perhaps not inconsequently ties in with the time in my life when people kept telling me I looked like Kate Bush. Anyway, I’m not sure where all of this is going really but suffice it to say that that whole velvet drenched, kaftan bedecked, occult obsessed style has in some form or another influenced me, either in its own right or via its precursors and I’m quite happy that I’m identified with it by those closest to me.
Soooooooooooo, who wants to look at some wonderful gothically psychedelic clothes? Yes me too. Let us have some music whilst we browse…

Play Me!

Burton’s film is obviously an adaptation the cult TV series which aired in the late 60s -early 70s. So it is only right that we take a look at some moments from that production too….

93f15999823a99ecbc8a3120e78fd6415a4f2f0b6a684abfe148c215c8c9775aa9b2f1fa882a59e821f67fde4905f354The original Angelique.

Darks Shaddows.20 looks a touch more HD.

fb85e9885898e3c9c2edfe6617beb844How gorgeous is this outfit? She looks like Daphne from Scooby-Doo’s edgy little sister, who doesn’t have time to solve mysteries because she’s too busy getting high and listening to Janis Joplin.

fa9c4b1f3475f9fd41e4563761eddfa574c291754bfbd1d7cb95aab801e958aa

I also kinda fell in love with Dr. Hoffman in all of her drunken glory – and that hair! Fabulous!

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Angelique, played by Eva Green, boasts some enviable retro tailoring which I heartily approve of, I do so love an executive witch.

b36453f2c22d67a92b137dfc70a09d800e89f1d5a2970d7b649a6b8f21b89b41Love the spiderweb break in the glass.

And look at little Vicky Winters, super cute in her preppy 70s threads.

However I think the belle of the Halloween ball has to be Elizabeth Collins, I want everything she wears, inlcuding the hair pieces. So, so good…

Look at that necklace! And the Paisley! And all the big sleeves! Fab-u-lous!

ef7df55ca3f84f59f5598cb270d088f3Of course we can’t forget dear Barnabas, his accessorising alone warrants a golf clap.

If you are as seduced by this look as I am, here are a few good online resouces for repro or inspired pieces…

Free People – good for flares and kaftans.

Sugar High Love Stoned – Reproduction Woodstock finest

Girl on a Vine – Unreal kaftans in a range of beautiful fabrics

So, let’s finish off with a few more shots from this period that I just love…

jinx dawson covenJinx Dawson

Pamela Courson

Well quite.

xxx


The Radio Times – Notebook Edition

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October 25, 2014

I wanted to let you know about a few great programmes currently available on the BBC IPlayer because, well what else are we supposed to do now that the clocks are going back and it’s as black as pitch by four o’clock? I try my hardest not to leave the house unless a roast dinner or Trick or Treating is involved during this time of year. Instead, I like hunkering down, tea-ing up and getting friendly with all of the great TV on offer. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There’s a reason TV scheduler-types put all of their best stuff on in the Autumn you know folks. I should know, I used to be one.

So, in this run up to Halloween the good old Beeb have come up trumps again with a whole raft of programming focussing on the gothic and the macabre. However, because it’s Auntie, it is all nicely wrapped up with an informative docu-dramatization bow. Huzzah!

So first off, we have Dan Cruickshank taking us through the story of the Scott family who, over three generations, were fundamental in the rise of the British Gothic style of the 19th century, all with a tasty dollop of personal tragedy naturally. Click!

Next is a very theatrical yet informative programme tracking the Gothic Revival in Britain within art, literature and wider Culture. Click!

To get us in the mood for Bonfire’s night which is only a few short days away (mittens at the ready folks), here is a nice dramatic reconstruction of the Gunpowder Plot. It is a bit patchy in parts and seems to skip over some events pretty swiftly, however, it’s a broad-brush recap of the political motivations and alliances that bore the plot in to fruition, if not execution. Click!

Although it was first aired a few years ago, Mark Gaitiss’ (he of Sherlock genius) walk through European Horror Cinema got a repeat outing a few days ago, so that too is currently up on the IPlayer. Catch it if you haven’t already! Click!

Finally, Dracula is available in all of its Hammer Horror glory. Peter Cushings cushing about and Christopher Lee being all imposing in glorious Technicolor – stick a toffee apple on a stick and call it a night folks. Boo!

Sweet nightmares kittens

xxx


Lost and Found

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October 22, 2014

On Monday I got lost. I was somewhat ok with this because I knew it was going to happen. Despite living in London for more years than I care to mention there are still some parts of it that remain pretty alien to me. In such a huge city I think we generally tend to stick to well-worn routes, or turfs that we recognises and feel at home in. These are usually the areas we work in, the places we have rented flats or just those locales we visit often for shopping or nights out. We get so familiar in these patterns that it sometimes comes as a bit of a shock when someone suggests to meet in Putney and you realise that you’ve never actually been there before, as happened to me last week (to the TFL journey planner!)

As much as I can tell you the quickest route from Forbidden Planet to the Big Topshop, there are definitely parts of the old girl that I just can’t fathom. One of these black holes is the City. Now this may come as something of a shock to you dear reader but I have never worked in the City. I’ve never inhabited an office called Jenkins and Stead, required the services of a ‘sandwich man’ or worked anywhere with a dress code any more taxing than ‘no ripped jeans’. I’ve worked in offices, but they have always been relaxed televisiony offices somewhere in West London where people wear whatever is newest on the ASOS website and eat cereal at their desks for lunch. Frankly, the City proper I find a bit otherworldly and weird. It seems to be endless wide and empty streets lined with glass and chrome with the occasional mock folksy 1800s pub front rammed into the bottom of a shiny building that was built circa 2001. Invariably these places are called some pseudo Medieval tosh like the Chime and Barrel or Golden Horn and serve what are essentially Weatherspoon’s meals but at three times the price so that the people in suits can gather together and discuss businessy business things with each other without feeling cheap. I know this to be true because I had to pop in to one on Monday when I couldn’t find a McDonalds to use for its primary function (public toilet) and instead darted through a space bedecked like Bilbo’s house full of red-faced men downing pints at 12.15pm. The only time I ever really seem to frequent the City is when I get on the wrong night bus and end up at three in the morning on some street that sounds like it was named by sodding Merlin, like Hob Knuckle Lane or Kings Guild Walk, and I’m the only thing with a pulse within a quarter of a mile radius and there’s nowhere to get any chips.

F

So as you can see, I was planning on getting lost at some point on Monday when I had a spare hour and decided to go and see the poppies at the Tower of London. Like some areas of London that have completely slipped me by over the years, so have many large tourist attractions. I hang my head in shame as a history graduate and also human being with a head that I have never been to the Tower of London. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been to the British Museum so many times I’m thinking of asking for a spare key but I’ve never been to the Tower of London once in all my years on this earth. Well I suppose it is a bit pricey and is all the way across town in the City….

D

Anyway, I have still never been inside but I thought I would go and see the poppies because they look beautiful and they are finishing soon. I am also still trying to get used to the idea of having free time for the first time in about six years after uni has finished. I’m trying to embrace this by doing the things I always mean to do but never have time for.

A

The poppies were beautiful. I was surprised by how close you could get without tickets, queues, or any of the things that can make living in Britain particularly frustrating at times. There was lots of room to navigate the Tower and everyone was nice, calm and not at all elbowy, which given the reason we were all there was heartening. It is of course a simple idea, and like many simple ideas, beautiful in that simplicity. Officially, this installation is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by the artist Paul Cummins, but everyone has just started calling it ‘the poppies’, which I find terribly sweet. Although not numerically accurate, each poppy represents a life lost in the First World War and I think even the least empathetic person on earth could hardly fail to realise the poignancy of the work when confronted with it. Silent and all the same, cloaked in red and standing tall in a space designed for defence. As I said beautiful in its simplicity.

SkylineE

After the poppies, I got lost. I was trying to find Bank Station but I must have wandered too far and instead ended up by Mansion House. When I saw the (in more ways than one) motherly form of St Paul’s I made a beeline for that instead as I knew I could pick up, what I like to think of as the arterial vein of London, the Central Line from there. On the way, I spotted some very sweet graffiti by the Thames and took some shots of the moody looking river. It was wonderful to be a tourist in my own town for a while. I took some time to think about my life over the last year. Although in some ways taking the plunge to leave work and study was scary, particularly now that it is over and I’m trying to forge a life from my studies, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve never really cared about where I apparently should be in life compared to my contemporaries. All I’ve ever wanted was a life I could be happy in. A life that when I’m a little elderly Miss Marple I can say I owned rather than rented. That ideology can sometimes be lost, especially in this town. It can be swept up with visiting the newest pop-up something, going Glamping, and managing to maintain a monthly cut and colour schedule. Apparently, these are the things people my age do, but I never have. I think these activities sound lovely, and I would probably enjoy them if I had the opportunity to. However, I have so much freedom just at the moment. I can take an hour in the middle of a Monday to wander the streets of London, lost and daydreaming, people watching and happy. As much as my future right now is in flux and unknown, standing beside the windy choppy brown river, looking at the clouds and the elderly couples holding hands I knew more than ever that I was in the right place and I wouldn’t change it, not for all the lunches at the Bell and Hog on earth.

Bxxx


About Me

A yesteryear throwback archaeologist in training writing about London, history and anything else that takes my fancy. I live in an old church and love all things Art Deco and Noir, with a touch of the gothic thrown in too. The 1930s is my era but I will always have a soft spot for Victoriana, the roaring twenties and cold war espionage. This is a place for pretty clothes, good books, and an unceasing love of basset hounds. I also wear a lot of berets.

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