Living

A cuckoo blew on my BBQ

At present I’m savouring the Netflix series ‘Chefs Table’. Composed of six episodes profiling six different chefs from around the globe. I’ve been eeking them out so have yet to watch them all. I have found each programme to be an inspiring look into each chefs approach as to how they express themselves. They are so connected to their land and seasons, which is hardly surprising, to see how they deliver their ethos or message on a plate I have found quite extraordinary.

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Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is – Jackson Pollock

 

Going by the quote if I am any good as an artist then I am indeed a white room!

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It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness – Roosevelt

 

It was such a pleasure to commission a series of illustrations to go along with the wonderfully evocative descriptions that make up my collection of scented candles. Each scent is based on a room in a grand country house. With the help of graphic designer extraordinaire Connie Dickson, we found the perfect illustrator for the job, Columbian based Randy Mora.  It was by no means a straight forward process, I’m sure we had Randy pulling his hair out on more that one occasion – probably every single time we spoke to him, but the finished product could not be better. Fun and totally surreal. You will now find a small handsome pack of cards in every candle box telling you the story of each scent and the ever important candle burning instructions about how to get the best out of your candle

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We allow no geniuses around our studio – Walt Disney

As I ever so slowly line my studio walls with hessian (it’s all about brown now, brown everything, I hope it still is by the time I finish) I couldn’t help but notice and love the cork wall in Yves St Laurent’s studio along with his tidy and inspiring glass topped trestle. Why does it take so much effort for work spaces to look this good in real life? I will persevere, an Autumn project to get everything into shape. I already have the dog with its head in the bin.
 

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A garden is only as good as its watering can.

Spring is all around and I’m looking forward to having an irrigation system installed in the garden tomorrow so I will hopefully no longer feel like a failure when yet again all the plants dry up and die under the shade of the three huge Sycamores that literally seem to suck the life out of everything. I had an epiphany while we were away on holiday in Morocco, lots of plants can grow in shade its the dryness they can’t cope with…..get an irrigation system installed. Pretty straight forward.

I haven’t felt particularly refreshed since coming back from holiday which is a shame, I did get my copper pans back from the re-tinners and they monogrammed them for me. A little bit of me feel like my life is just beginning.

 

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To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often – Winston Churchill

Applying the vein of my last blog post to life couldn’t meaningfully start until we got Christmas out of the way. Since then I have found mindfulness and the act of rationalising come from the most curious place. The end of last year saw me back in the operating theatre having having another knee operation, a year of being pretty much out of the kind of action I like to be in left me unkindly out of shape, physically and mentally. I’m still a way off any form of high impact exercise but remembering  the ancient adage “70% of rock hard abs happens in the kitchen” I decided to reach out to a nutritionist to see what might be an appropriate dietary path for me to take. We settled on the Metabolic Balance programme and I have to say in the short period of time I have been doing it I have been astonished at how it has proved more than effective at shaving a few inches off the waistline but has also thoroughly swept all of the cobwebs out of my addled mind, recharged my extremely fatigued batteries and given me a new focus on what and how much I put into my body over the course of a day and what else I put into the day for that matter. It’s flipped everything upside down and returned me to the values of simple and productive living. It’s slowed things down and seen me applying myself to one thing at a time so much more effectively than I have been able to do for so long, which in turn has made my time incredibly productive. I’m feeling good!

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Starting my day as I mean to go on.

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Good things come

I want to say I’m going through a phase, but maybe I should say I’m emerging out of one that has dominated the way I have thought about consuming for the best part of my adult life. By consuming, I mean first and foremost the way I spend my money and what I spend it on but perhaps it can be applied to all areas of consumption in my life. 

It started earlier this year when I had had been thinking long and hard about my dressing habits. I liked clothes but had no idea how to shop for them or my body shape or dress in a way that conveyed who I was and/or wanted to be. My normal shopping routine was scroll through ASOS click on what I wanted, guess the size and proceed to the checkout. 8 times out of 10 the garment was wroooooong and as it was so cheap instead of going to the trouble to return it, it would stay in my wardrobe with its tags still on until it would be taken to the charity shop. My thinking being at least I had a good feeling someone less fortunate than me would be getting a bargin.

I had a little savings I could have some fun with so I researched personal shopper/stylists/wardrobe consultants until I found one who understood what the brief was. To say it wasn’t emotional would be and understatement. I was surprised at the feelings it stirred up inside me about how I saw my size and body shape and also at the items we chose together that I never would have dreamed of wearing in a million years. These have become my favourites and make me feel like a million dollars. The most interesting thing I took away from the experience is that each item was of premium quality, beautifully made and therefore beautifully fitted. I have found the saying ‘the clothes maketh the man’ definitely applies. Not only have I felt a lot more confident in myself, I have a beautiful wardrobe I like to take care of and a lot less tat cluttering up my life. I now approach clothes shopping in a more considered way where I identify what might be missing or what might want updating and research the best pieces that can fill the gap. More often than not I’ll need to save up and in doing this I treat it with more care than I would normally, which in turn again makes me feel good! I’ll admit in moments of boredom I’ve fallen off the wagon and found myself with an unwanted acrylic white bikini and wooden soled clog ankle booties, but all in all I’m learning that the value I place on my clothes comes out in the value that I place on myself. Now I know this isn’t going a great way to save the Whales and minimise the global carbon footprint, or maybe in a very round about way it is? The point is I’m spending less but getting so much more. 

A few weeks ago I had another knee operation which turned out to be a lot more complicated than initially thought and kept me housebound for two weeks. Then ready to go back to work, my face swelled up so I looked like a hamster, another week at home. The swelling is starting to go down but the cabin fever is at an all time high. A very thoughtful friend sent through a link to the New York Times ‘T Magazine’ latest profile on one of my and Ben’s favourite interior decorators/shop keepers and friend Robert Kime. It profiled the flat above his shop in Bloomsbury and his cottage in rural Cumbria. Reading the article and looking at these images reminded me of what I have trying to apply to my consumption habit  all over again. Why not wait for the best and make do until you get it? No more ‘that’ll do’ no more ‘if it breaks I’ll just get a new one’. Why not focus more on bringing fewer things into your life that are beautiful and that you want to take care of forever, which in turn will take care of you by becoming a part of your living aesthetic. Again, it’s not saving Whales, but I can think of fewer nicer things than starting the day with a good coffee out of your most favoured coffee can, or bringing in some freshly cut flowers to go in the prettiest vase you had ever seen. Using your best everyday because everyday should be the best. Do you know what I mean?

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I told the Doctor I broke my leg in two places, he told me to stop going to those places!

 

Earlier this month, the first time in my life I had an operation and became a patient.

An old knee injury from a skiing accident (my first ever ski lesson saw me tabogganed off the mountain – embarrassing).  I’d never really done much about it but it made life a misery. I finally had it looked at late last autumn and it turned out I’d been getting around for the last four years with no anterior cruciate ligament and very badly torn cartilage – duh. So it was off to hospital to get it sorted out.

I’ve always had a fear of general anesthetic, so much so, during the walk home from work the night before the operation I was so pre-occupied about dying I crossed a road without looking and got hit by a cyclist. He managed to slow down enough so the impact didn’t hurt. Being called a “f***ing idiot” did, but I had crossed the road without looking so I guess I had been.

Here is a picture of my leg before the operation. The doctor draws a big arrow in big black felt tip pen on the correct leg so he won’t make a mistake. Because it is so hard to wash after the operation, it stays there for a couple of weeks as a ‘fun reminder’ that there is always a possibility they might get the wrong leg.

 

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Here is a picture after the operation.

The surgeon said the first I would know about whether they had managed to save the cartilage or cut it out would be upon waking, to either a full leg brace (its been saved) or not (its been cut out). When I woke up I went into complete shaking shock and panic and started shouting at the poor poor recovery nurse to ‘straighten my leg out so I could get the hell out of there and get me a drink because I was very thirsty’ we battled over the oxygen mask for a while. I’d pull it off, he’d put it back on, again and again and again until he put one of those ones that goes right up your nose and told me firmly that if I didn’t calm down I wouldn’t be leaving the recovery room, so I was in there for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, a patient was wheeled in beside me and I swear to god, he came around and took a big deep breath in and then out and said ‘aaaaahhhhhhh! it’s so clever how you do that, I feel great’ and then got wheeled straight out. At same time I was trying to pull my paper gown off and escape.

 

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I didn’t realise I had a full leg brace on for a few hours and I didn’t realise I would be wearing it and on crutches for nine weeks. Still if it means I have a full set of cartilage, I can persevere with this. (I’ve got five or six weeks to go now and I don’t think I can persevere with it) and it will never be worse than my knee spontaneously popping out. 

This was my first meal after the operation. It had been a full 18 HOURS since my last meal. I had to photograph it and share it with everybody, it was so good and I was wasted.

 

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When I was discharged the next day, I went home and recuperated in bed for another three or four days. My dog Max felt sympathetic and lay with me a lot.

 

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As both pets quickly learnt I was lame and no longer good as a source for food (though left long enough I probably would have become a source OF food to them) they basically abandoned me, seeking me out only when in need of warmth and always, ALWAYS managing to jump and then lie right on top of the spot of the operation and occasionally play fight on top of it too.

 

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Two weeks passed and I was finally able enough to dress myself and walk to the roadside and wait to be picked up by a taxi. So I did and got out at my destination and sat down at this table with my friend Jane (who’s birthday it happened to be) and we ate oysters and steak frites and drank a little Rose and finished it off with these profiteroles, oh and it that an empty glass of dessert wine too? What a joyous few hours of freedom.

 

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Back to work and back to the surgeons office to get my stitches removed and talk about my surgery and ‘watch the video together’!!!???? When did that start to happen? I marvelled at how pure and white the inside of my knee is and I thought I would share a picture of my donor ligament too. Just look how shiny and strong it is! In a couple of months time this baby will be taking all sorts of strain and I’ll try not to wreck it on the ski slopes next winter.

 

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The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.

Does anyone need reminding about opting into organ donation? It can be done online (I’ve only given a link for the UK, but you can google Organ Donation + your country to do it wherever in the world you are).

Easy peasy and extraordinarily important. Click here to do something you’ve been meaning to do for years. I’ve seen first hand how dramatically it can improve a persons life. It is SO SO worth it, that heart you never thought you had could more than make up for it a second time around!

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When One is tired of London….Episode 1 ‘The Drowned Man’

I can say I have been tired recently but certainly not of London. In fact I would say this has been the first Summer in a very long time that I have made the most of what’s on offer in this great city. Largley due to having energetic and interested house guests, but also due to the fact I have been holed up for some time now and have finally found the need to shake it off and remind myself of who and where I am.

Having missed (forgotten) to take photographs of what Ben would call ‘blogortunitites’ over the last couple of weeks due to being so involved in what I was doing I thought I’d skim some images courtesy of the kind people of the internet to share with you. So thank you kind people with foresight and cameras. Let me know if you have any objections to me using your images IF you can prove they are in fact yours yeah?

The first cultural event I want to blog about that I never thought I’d see myself going to was a production by the immersive theatre group Punchdrunk and their latest theatrical adventure ‘The Drowned Man’ ( I ended up seeing it twice!). I’m normally the LAST person to put their hand up to volunteer attending any theatre. I find live performance pretty, I dunno, in your face? Theatrical? Performancy? Self conscious for sure. People pretending to be other people anywhere other than on the telly have always made little sense to me. Puppets are OK, because people are pretending to be an inanimate object and that makes perfect sense. Call me uncultured, I really don’t mind. Educate me, if you want to put in the time I’m happy to do the crime. PLEASE!

My first theatrical experience was seeing CATS in Auckland in 1990 (same year as the Auckland Commonwealth Games, which was/is still OUR London Olympic Summer!) when I was 12. The tickets cost my mother a fortune and she made me a waistcoat with a tiger print/face pattern especially for the evening, she’d seen it a few years before in Sydney and didn’t want me to miss the dazzle. There was so much anticipation and SO much riding on it being amazing for me. I think I ended up being so nervous I forgot to actually enjoy it! ( Or perhaps seeing fully grown men and women pouncing around in leotards painted up as cats singing renditions of Barbara Streisands’ ‘Memories’ makes you automatically block/hate all theatre?)

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 Back to The Drowned Man…I was offered a ticket a few weeks ago almost last minute by a friend which I couldn’t make, that same weekend I was given a second spare ticket a chance I figured the gods were telling me something so I went. I took a group of six the week after that.

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 The Drowned Man is a completely different experience. Set over four or five floors (200,000 sq ft) in an old postal sorting office in Paddington, two stories of love gone wrong are played out and it is up to each individual audience member to decide which storyline or actor they want to follow. We were given masks upon entering and told to remain completely silent throughout but encouraged to explore, leave no stone unturned if we so felt the need. The staging is vast. I spent the first visit mostly wandering around wondering how they’d managed it and only getting glimpses of the action. The second time I decided I wanted to follow the story more closely and it was pretty extraordinary. I’m aware there is an unwritten code that punchdrunk fans don’t reveal any plot line so I’m not going to spoil it for anyone other than to say, its a three hour performance and the first lot of friends I went with who were experienced in punchdrunk said ‘there will be a point where you want to start looking for the secret bar, find it and odds are we will be there or not far behind’ I can tell you both times this happens approximately two hours in and the last hour is spent happily in a replica 60’s Hollywood club where you drink and fall in love with the man singing Blue Valentine perfectly dressed in a white tuxedo and all the girls walking around on floor length sequined gowns whispering sweet nothings in punters (who can’t believe their luck) ears.

What I loved about The Drowned Man was how it was so different to regular theatre. Things I struggle with i.e. the self-consciousness, when everyone around you is laughing so hard/reacting so strongly to something that you think is utter crap. You then need to proceed to judge the entire audience, especially the friends that invited you (entire friendships needs to be fully re-evaluated), its stressful. If you really hate it you can walk away and visit the bar. If you really love it you can secretly weep and get swept away with it because you are wearing a mask and have lost your mates and are anonymous. I can’t possibly comment on the quality of the dancing or acting I have zero knowledge of it but at least I can now say I say I have a burgeoning interest.

The Drowned Man runs until the 30th December in London’s Paddington, tickets and dates available here. I urge you to experience it for yourself and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Having shared mine I’m now far more interested in hearing about your first foray into the theatre.