20 June 2012

my happy place

So it turns out there is no such thing as flattering maternity wear. Trust me, I've spent the weekend testing all that North London has to offer, and now have evidence (as if proof were needed) that you cannot polish a turd. Maternity wear makes you look fat... because at the end of the day, a waist measurement in excess of a metre means that (in conventional terms) you are fat. So don't believe the hype, flattering maternity wear is like a painless wax or Nigel Slater's recipe for chicken and coriander laksa: a contradiction in terms.

But other than clothes making me want to bury my weeping face in a large bag of Oxford Street Topshop's finest pick'n'mix, we have just spent a magical few days in the big smoke. Eating in favourite places, old and new, visiting the best markets and spending time with some of our most precious people.

There's one place in London where you'll always find me on a Sunday morning - no later than 8.30am - it's my happy, happy place and so photogenic that I thought you might like to see. Londoners (as a rule) are a pretty cynical bunch, and many might dismiss this place as a bit touristy. But during the years that I lived a stone's throw from here (even marrying into a Hackney family whose bone marrows read "E8" like sticks of rock) this place was my regular solitary Sunday morning escape. Ergo it's not just for tourists. Not if you do it properly.

Columbia Road flower market, Sunday Morning, no later than 8.30am. There's nowhere I'd rather be.

no knitting or reading to report for yarn along this week, but you do pass a bit of neat yarn bombing (including pom poms!) on the way :-)

first stop, breakfast at Jones Dairy, hot chocolate and raisin buns all round

Jones breads, colourful shops yet to open, bagels bagels bagels

fabric, ribbons and knicknacks once the shops start opening

junk (sorry, Royal memorabilia!) stands, thrift stalls and... ooh... a vintage solution to the lighting conundrum in the new kitchen! I'll take three!

and of course, flowers, flowers and more flowers
the real stars this weekend were the peonies and sweet williams - true British June blooms - naturally a few bunches were taken home for Granny

My happy, happy place. If you ever find yourself in East London on a weekend, get there before the crowds do.

13 June 2012

diversionary tactics

This is proving to be a very tedious but effective diversion.

endless garter stitch on the baby chic blanket - procrastinator's paradise

A diversion from what you might ask?
Well, from this... and from this...

book group in 36 hours... as you can see it's really not happening for me, and a corner of my current kitchen - truly vile

Professional procrastination does have its inherent rewards though. If you turn your back and half close your eyes, you can make-believe Nigella. Even in the world's most repugnant and dilapidated kitchen. 

08 June 2012

project 52: water

An adored (and assumed) Uncle of mine uses a particular phrase with respect to our weather. He's often heard to proclaim that: In Scotland there are two seasons, Winter and July.

While his point of view is slightly skewed (having left many decades ago for the languid, sun-soaked charms of the Far East, South America and other enviable places) the sentiment holds true. In general, you can anticipate truly atrocious weather on any day of the year in Britain. And in Scotland in particular, you can expect to add 'bloody freezing cold' to that forecast. Even (though I hate to admit it) in July.

The Queen's jubilee in London last week was a washout. Wimbledon beckons, with its time-honoured fickleness. God knows what we have in store for all those well-travelled tourists during the Olympics.

But it's so b-o-r-i-n-g hearing everyone girn on about it (one of our many national failings is that there's simply nothing we like complaining about more than the weather). So we have another proverb here in Scotland, handed down through the ages, I think, by the prophet Billy Connolly. Translated from the original Glaswegian it goes something like this: There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.

And so, when a particularly gloomy friend of mine stated that the long-term forecast for our area was rain every day for the rest of this month, The Boss and I decided we'd better just go for a walk and make the best of it. She declared the puddles some of the best she'd ever jumped in.

Water, it seems we're in for some. Suck it up.

the corner of our street, now named "the welly bath"

06 June 2012

flaking out

For what feels like the hundredth time in three months, a gang of tradesmen have descended and boxes full of god-knows-what have been shifted from one room to another. While there's no longer a toilet in the old kitchen (progress!) there is now a bed in the living room (hard to ignore). The process of replacing a rotten old kitchen seems to have taken over every corner, every object and every day of our lives - not to mention every penny. But because we're doing this out of sheer necessity rather than any Elle Deco sense of aesthetic supremacy (the old kitchen is run into the ground and starting to digest itself from the inside out) the process is somehow easier to tolerate. It simply has. to. get. done.

Except that the noise and the fine film of dust is torturous. So much so that I'm willing to leave the keys with whichever bunch of grunts I hired two hours earlier and just escape. And so earlier this week (on the pretext of discussing flooring) I went to our local department store... and ended up in the wool department.

This makes me a total flake. I have two unfinished baby jumpers on the go and a box full of yarn remnants, but an offer on wool cotton in the softest unisex shades was more than my ditzy temperament could resist. I immediately cast on 250 stitches and started striping, and suddenly there's a massive project on my hands - a garter stitch baby blanket of one-row stripes and unimaginable tedium. It will (if it ever gets finished) be seriously beautiful. But any 'design' (if I can be bumptious enough to call stripes that) I've come up with myself has always ended up unfinished in the bottom of a bag. So I'm not holding my breath.

And here's the thing, we're not even getting new flooring.

Another thing I'm being a drip about it books. These is my words; the diary of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy Turner is our bookgroup choice for this month, and I'm finding it hard going. I can tell that it's an important historical book and, being a real young woman's diary, it's very easy to read. But it's a pretty grim diary of American pioneer travelling life in the 1880s, with all the death, disease and violence that entails. It's hard to keep going, and it's a looooong book. So when the meeting this friday night got postponed due to the hostess' unwelcome kidney stone, I have to admit, there was just a tiny grain of relief at the back of my conscious brain; phew, I don't have to struggle on with that book by the weekend.

I KNOW, my buddy has a kidney stone, it's unforgivable! I promise to rectify my karma and offer to go round and do her ironing or something.

03 June 2012

mary, mary quite contrary

Girly gardeners. Yeuch, you know the type; clean gloves of the highest quality, daintily deadheading a miniature rose while perching on a soft knee cushion upholstered in delicately-sprigged oilcloth... which she made by hand. Everything in her garden is weed-, bug- and snail-free, her manicure remains intact under those pastel leather gauntlets, and she's wearing white. In fact, let's face it, she's on Wisteria Lane and her name is Bree. Real life: thank crap it's not actually like that.

But imagine the horrors when I realise that somehow I've ended up with pink Hunter wellies and pink gardening gloves. How did that happen? And I'm directing operations to a man hired to cut my hedges! (As with most everything, I blame all my current failings on being pregnant, and being not very good at it... the hedges or the pregnant.) Heaven forbid I turn into a girly gardener.

We only moved to this house five years ago, and for two of those five we had to leave it to the mercies of tenants (of, ahem, mixed quality). So the garden certainly hasn't reached full potential. But in 2009, during the Summer before we abandoned it for Singapore, I kept a photo diary on the first day of every month, to chart progress. And it was incredibly rewarding - especially for a veg-patch numpty who has no idea what's supposed to happen when.

As luck would have it, Ginny, the amazing blogger and all-round renaissance woman, has been linking up like-minded people for a weekly garden journal, and I'm really interested to see what people grow, especially to eat, in other parts of the world. Click on her name there if you want to do the same.

So here's where we are in the North of Scotland at the beginning of June 2012 (and as you can see from the weeds, I've clearly got some way to go before I reach Bree-like status on the girly gardening front!). It's averaging about 10-12 degrees C at the moment, and it's been quite dry and sunny, so everything's suddenly starting to flourish. I hope the coming month will bring significant progress, June usually does.

the largest part of the plot

rhubarb, or Barbara to her friends (she's out of control), and some huge pots sown with mint seeds that never came up, what a waste

the sunflower patch, will we beat the 2008 personal best of 3 metres?

broad beans doing nicely, and space at the back for a couple of courgettes that are ready to go in

shallots, peas and chives - I like the flowers too much to snip them off!

a rampant cardoon and the raspberry canes (which I may live to regret as they're trying to colonise the whole garden)

wild strawberries sown by a generously incontinent bird

it's year four for these young trees, but could these be my first ever apples? I hope so!!!

And I have one photo printed out and stuck into my actual, paper garden journal. A reminder for when I feel like I'm losing the battle against time, slugs, wet grass and bad weather. In Spring 2007, the veg patch looked like this...

dismal huh?

02 June 2012

project 52: playtime

See what happens when you turn your back for five minutes? Okay, so it's been more like six weeks since I fell off the P52 wagon, but in that time it's vacated the delectable Darcy's website and is now hosted by someone handsomely-named Kent. (We're all about names round here at the moment, and I have to say, Kent sounds dashing don'cha think?)

But this week I caught sight of the fact that the theme is 'playtime'. Something I clearly haven't had enough of lately, because I haven't been taking many photos or generally joining in. I blame that on physically feeling like a faded, slightly-too-squashy space hopper. One from the actual 1970s. (Btw, have you seen these - if I wasn't totally neurotic about injuring children, I'd definitely have bought one by now. Like all of the most potentially limb-threatening head-cracking toys, it looks awesomesauce.)

Anyway, I happen to have loads of photos from various childish playful activities this past week due to the fairly tolerable weather. We've had a new swing built in the garden, resulting in about forty bazillion virtually identical photos of shoe soles or undercrackers... or both. And today, my beloved progeny decided to set up a yard sale in the front path, specifically selling granite chuckies to passersby. Yes, individual bits of gravel, in a city that's entirely made of granite. Gravel from the actual path she was sitting on. Many hilarious photos. Especially after she, rather impressively, made 90p.

But here's one picture that I really like. Taken, I confess, with no skill or merit using my iphone and a brazenly-applied instagram filter (I forget which one - I think LoFi). Sorry - must try harder next time.

My daughter's bedroom is absolutely my favourite room in our house. It's dark, cheaply decorated, small and crowded, but I've always loved it. And (call me crazy) but when there have been friends round to play and it looks like a bomb has dropped, I love it even more. Looking at all the debris, I always get the feeling that it's this wild abandon and colour that allows kids to be so much happier than adults. Wouldn't you be?

Now, here I really want to add the clever linky P52 banner, but I'm too much of a numpty to know how to plop it here from Kent's website, where it sits there looking all snazzy... but where's the bit of html that I paste into my post? Do let a luddite like me in on the secret and I'll promise to do it all proper next time. Cheers.
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