Sunny autumn days are the best kind of weather. The sun is out, everyone’s happier when the sun is out. It’s possible to go out for a walk, one that involves crunching through golden leaves. Blue skies contrast nicely with the autumn hues. And there is no necessity to bear flesh. That’s the one thing I don’t like about the summer: the clothes. Somehow I can never get it right. No such stress in autumn; jeans, boots, jumper, sorted. I like that.
We’ve had a fairly classic autumn so far. There have been some lovely sunny days, and they have happened to be at the weekend. We have been able to go out for some walks. I haven’t got round to posting the pictures of these yet. And today seems the perfect opportunity to do this. It’s awful out there today. In fact I’m writing this from my bed. It’s not sunny outside. There’s just been some kind of hail storm. There was thunder and then the sky expelled something cold, wet and hard. I’m glad I’m in bed ‘working’.
So here are some snaps from some recent adventures. Greenwich on a sunny, autumnal day. Michael and Fred did some beachcombing. Some bones were found (and are now languishing in a plastic bag somewhere waiting to be bleached; I feel that’s a ‘daddy’ activity.) We had some food at the market; we indulged Fred’s love of sushi.
More recently, on a gloriously sunny day, we headed West to Barnes, parked the car and headed over the river to Chiswick. This is not an area of London I’m familiar with. In my younger days, I spent two years in Bethnal Green, the proper East-End, a year in Clapham (I was a young professional, don’t hate me) and then some time in Fulham (it was cheap, that’s my excuse) but I never ventured further West. And now I’m in South-East London, which I love. But it was good to explore somewhere different.
I definitely want to return to Chiswick as I know there are some good shops to explore and a decent car boot sale on a Sunday. This time, we took a stroll along the river, explored the grounds of Chiswick House and generally soaked up the golden sunshine.
Let’s hope there are some more of these sunny days. I can cope with winter and all its darkness if we have a little bit of sunshine too.
I love bookshops. Especially independent ones. There’s something about the way they select their wares, the knowledge of their subject, the little extras they often have for sale and the advice they give. I feel more intelligent just being in a bookshop, as if some of the knowledge inside the books has passed to me by magic (unfortunately this feeling is fleeting and disappears completely once I am outside of said shop).
I’m lucky enough to live close to many fine independent bookshops. I’m just down the road from Dulwich Books (which organises a brilliant array of writers to come and talk, they recently had Julia Donaldson and Eleanor Catton, the staggeringly young winner of the Booker prize this year). There’s also Herne Hill Books, a tiny shop with a carefully curated selection of awesome books. (I don’t use the word awesome lightly, I’m British). And let us not forget Tales on Moon Lane, a book shop dedicated to children’s books and recently closed down by a burst water main that made the news. Slightly more further afield there’s Chener Books in East Dulwich: from the outside it looks a little bit ramshackle, but inside it’s pure gold. I also love Rye Books in East Dulwich which has a great selection and serves coffee. And finally Review in Peckham, the owner of which is a writer herself. Phew that’s a lot of independent book shops.
The thing about these shops is that they need people to spend money there rather than at Amazon. I’m no saint, of course I’ve bought books from Amazon, and I’m also partial to second hand books in charity shops. However I do try and make a purchase from one of these shops every now and again. As I can’t imagine a world without bookshops.
In September, there was a campaign to raise awareness about independent bookshops called ‘Books Are My Bag’. Have a look at their website here. There are a lot of worrying stats about the demise of the independent bookseller. So, I’ve decided I’m going to do a bit of my Christmas shopping at one of my local bookshops. I probably will do a bit at Amazon too, as I’m not perfect (and they are very cheap). However you don’t get the service and the knowledge and the chance to stroke beautiful books with Amazon, so I’m going to support these bookshops too.
It’s November. How did that happen? Time is going so quickly; we’re hanging onto 2013 for dear life.
It was half-term last week, and also Halloween. For the past few years, we’ve been away for Halloween and as we weren’t this year, we could actually do the whole Halloween thing. And what a ‘thing’ it has become. There were hordes of children out on the streets trick or treating, and I have to say that in my little corner of South East London, it was a delight. The kids were polite, and only knocked on the doors of houses who were displaying lit pumpkins. It was a real social affair; young kids, teenagers, adults, neighbours all having fun. And where’s the harm in that?
My little boy was dressed as a zombie. His school also has a dress-up day on the last day of the half-term. I did worry that I had overdone the fake blood as we walked to school past the cute witches and skeletons. But there were also a fair few bloodied corpse brides, so my little extra from ‘The Walking Dead’ was not alone being liberally sprinkled with the red stuff.
Next stop: fireworks and then the countdown to Christmas. Bring it on!
It was my birthday last week. Another year older, another year wiser? Maybe. I’ll be 40 next year. I should be wise enough to know that 40 is just one year older than 39, and it’s how you feel not how old you actually are that matters. But 40 does feel like a milestone. Is it middle-aged? Will I be forced to wear sensible shoes and a brown cardigan? (I already do, so perhaps I’m already there).
In some respects, I’m glad my twenties are out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I look at youngsters (that’s anyone who is noticeably younger then I am) and I’m jealous of their freedom and all the opportunities for fun there are now. It’s harder to be spontaneous when you have a small person who relies on you, and most of your friends are in the same boat). And then I remember the reality of being young today: lots of 20-somethings are full of self-doubt, the job-market’s not great and many of them can’t even afford to move out of their parents’ home.
It’s a cliche, but like a lot of cliches there’s a grain of truth in it: with age brings a certain self-knowledge and acceptance. Obviously, I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m far less hard on myself (and others) than I was at the age of 29. I’m also more sorted. I have a husband, a son and a house (with a mortgage, but hey you can’t have everything). Plus I: have more of an idea about what I actually want to do (and my limitations). That’s not hard, I was clueless for a long time. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a wobble every now and again. But hey, doubt is OK too.
My best friend gave me this card. Thanks, Chelle! I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Next year maybe?
Paris in the autumn; rusty leaves littering the paths, the air crisp but not icy, drinkers soaking up the sun in pavement cafes. Oh it was divine.
It was a pre-birthday treat. I can highly recommend going away before your birthday, because you don’t get the post-holiday blues quite as much as usual. But despite my advancing years, I’m still in the ‘get excited about my birthday’ camp. I’m making the most of it, I have a feeling it won’t last for ever.
Michael used to travel abroad a fair amount with work. His company was generous and allowed him to travel First Class. (I’d be stuck at home, green with envy as I’ve never made it out of economy, despite knowing that business trips are generally pretty dull). Alas no more travel for Michael, but he was left with a rather large Airmiles balance just begging to be used up. Who knew you could get Eurostar tickets with Airmiles? Well you can. And we did.
In a bid to keep costs down (there have been a lot of holidays this year and it’s taking its toll on our finances), we stayed in an Airbnb in the Canal St Martin area. The area is popular with hip, young things (and us). The apartment was a bargain in a city not known for budget accommodation.
I’ve been to Paris lots. I used to travel there once a month with work. I’ve done the tourist attractions and was happy to give them a miss this time. So it was nice to just wander without a plan. We came across a market selling wine and other delights from all over France. We sampled some of the wares.
We admired the views. We wandered down cobbled streets and marvelled at just how pretty Paris is. There’s a photo opportunity around every corner.
So I may have had a small gap in blogging. This is what’s been happening in my world:
- I got inspiration overload at Tent London and Designjunction during London Design Festival. There were so many brilliant designers exhibiting their wares. And it ranged from the big names to the small designers running things from their homes. I was especially drawn to some of the fabric designers. I mean look at that Ercol chair covered in Tamasyn Gambell’s gorgeous designs. I have (and love) a couple of Ercol chairs and I’m almost paralysed with indecision about what to do with them. I also loved (as ever) the textiles and blankets by Eleanor Pritchard. One day one of those blankets will be mine *strokes imaginary blanket* *laughs manically*.
- We had some friends over and I cooked truffled gnocchi with roast chicken and sage butter. It was mouthwateringly good. It’s from Gizzi Erskine’s new cookbook. I need to cook some of the skinny meals too.
- I bagged myself a rather beautiful teal typewriter from a charity shop in Beaconsfield. If I’ve said it before, I will say it again…those rich satellite towns around London really pay up top chazza shop booty. I already have a cream typewriter (and quite a lot of crockery picked up over the years), I’m considering setting up a little shop on Etsy or Ebay to sell my wares.
- A couple of friends and I had a mini-girls’ weekend. We actually stayed at my best friend’s house in Beaconsfield. She’s recently had it completely rebuilt and refitted and I’ve got to say it’s shamazing (I have never used that word before, the bog standard amazing just does not cut it here). We went on a walk by the river, ate in a lovely country pub and generally drank too much wine. Seeing old friends is the best tonic. Despite the wine and the lack of sleep, I came away revived. Love my besties.
- You have got to love the autumn light. So far October has rocked it. And it’s my birthday next week. I love October. (I love getting presents too).
- I bought some new trousers. The check is very in don’t you know?
- I made a glittery cake (with beetroot instead of butter) for a friend’s 40th. (I’m not quite there yet, another year to go for me). We are entering the 40th zone. I do love a good party though, so it’s all good.
As I was perusing the programme for the London Film Festival next month, I noticed that they have made Michael Faber’s book ‘Under the Skin’ into a film starring Scarlet Johansson. Have you read that book? It’s a pretty freaky read – one of those books that you think about for ages after you read it. I must have read it five or more years ago and it still pops into my mind every now and again.
It starts off with a lone female driver, scouting the roads of the Scottish Highlands for hitchhikers. Not just any hitchhikers. They have to be big, muscly men. She likes them butch. It starts to get more bizarre, though. And not in the way you’re thinking. When all is finally revealed, it’s deeply unsettling and thought-provoking. (Is Faber trying to say something about certain aspects of modern life?)
I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll leave it there. But for anyone who has read the book: Scarlett Johansson?! She’s not how I pictured the main character. In the main, I always prefer the book to the film, but I’d be interested in how they captured this one. It’s really quite strange and brilliant.