Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The 40-year old bauble

I took this top photo on Christmas Eve. This is the one remaining decoration that my mother bought in 1975. She used to work near John Lewis on Oxford Street, and went there after work on Christmas Eve to pick up a tinsel tree (for £5) and some decorations. This pink bauble, made of thread wound around a plastic ball - and I know this from when I unravelled the other two as a child - is the one thing from that Christmas Eve that remains. It's 40 years old this Christmas!

And this was the old tree with mini me, on my second Christmas.

This Christmas, I bought three new baubles from John Lewis on Oxford Street for my mother, and a nice box to keep them (and the old bauble) in. They're similar, but feathery rather than thready. And sorry, but my Christmas tree nails have lasted so well, I get them into as many pictures as I can! I'm not sure if the decorations will all last another 40 years, but here's hoping.

The department store on Oxford Street  has turned its rooftop into another green (and white) space, after the success of last year's summer garden. It's only there until New Year's Eve, so if you want to go, be quick!

If they do a rooftop garden for winter again, I'd love to see some colourful planting too, like they had in the summer garden. Although there might be fewer bees this time of year!

This grass chair was so comfortable - I would love one of these!

This Christmas, one of my friends from Swansea Uni bought me the same pair of snowman M&S socks that I bought her. I don't remember our first Christmas presents to each other in the 1990s, but they were probably South Park vodka shot glasses or something similarly juvenile. A sign of getting old or just a sign of two friends having the same taste, I love my snowman socks - I wore them on my Boxing Day walk in Greenwich Park, where I saw plenty of pretty hellebores. Christmas might be on its way out, but late winter colour is on its way in.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Support available over Christmas and New Year

I hope you are having a peaceful Christmas and are able to enjoy today, or at least look forward to a day of rest in the week ahead.

If this is a difficult time for you because of bereavement, Cruse have extra, trained volunteers on their helpline over the holidays. The helpline is 0844 477 9400 and it is open from 9.30am until 5pm from 25th - 28th December, 9.30am until 8pm from the 29th - 31st December, and 9.30am until 5pm on New Year's Day.

The Samaritans are available to talk 24 hours a day, every day. Their helpline is 116 123 if you are calling from the UK, and it is free to ring. Other details are here.

There are lots of reasons why people can feel less than merry over the holidays, especially if someone is alone, or feels alone. Mind has some ideas here for self-care and treatment if you are suffering from a low mood.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas daffodils at the Olympic Park, Stratford

When I heard that there were confused daffodils at the Olympic Park, who had taken the cold spell earlier in the autumn to be winter and the warm November to be spring, I really wanted to see them. I kept meaning to go to the Olympic Park whenever I see photos of the beautiful summer flowers there, but I never went. Well, this time I made the effort, and got there just before the sun went down yesterday afternoon.

I couldn't see them for a while and then suddenly there was the surreal sight of a huge Christmas tree and a mass of Eastery daffodils.

I wonder how long it took to decorate this huge tree - it was full of baubles, cinnamon, oranges and lotus heads.

For all of the wrongness of having daffodils before Christmas, they were still beautiful.

I've got into a DIY nail art habit since the summer, which is spectacularly silly when I am working with my hands so much, but pfft. Here's me showing off my Christmas tree nail art.

Some of the daffodils had already started to wilt!

The sculpture by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the helter skelter-esque ArcelorMittal Orbit, looks wonderful up close - much better than it looked to me when I just saw it on TV or in the papers during the Olympics! And it sounds like they ARE going to open up a helter skelter slide next year...which, judging by the popularity of the slides in Tate Modern a few years ago, will be a hit.

I managed to go in before they shut and took some nice twilight photos...but most of those will have to wait for now.

I was pleased to hear they offer free access to accompanying carers of disabled people, so if my sister is ever in a good enough mood to go on the train and Jubilee Line/DLR, I would love to take her.

Friday, 18 December 2015

The storm before the calm

The year whizzes by, the month zips along, and now it is less than a week until Christmas Day. I usually end up blogging more at Christmas during the calm after the storm...that week between Christmas and New Year is a time of reflection for me.

I went to a Christmas service at the end of November - which feels like ages ago now. It was a remembrance service for people who were bereaved, and it was intended to be a candlelit service held outside, by a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the gale-force winds meant that the candles wouldn't light, so people took the candles with them to light quietly in their homes. It's the only service I've been to where we sang Once in Royal David's City and You'll Never Walk Alone, but it was lovely. In fact, I'd never sung You'll Never Walk Alone before, and I didn't realise what a moving song it is.

Now the weather has shifted again, and walking back past the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree last night, I realised it was 9pm on the week before Christmas, and I wasn't wearing a scarf or gloves because it was so mild.

I hope your Decembers are going well, and if it's stormy for you now, that there is calm ahead.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Losing my voice.

As you can see, I have lost my blogging voice. Or mislaid it. Until I find it again, I am going to follow Deb's Dust Bunny's wonderful example and do some "wordless Wednesday" posts each week. Obviously, in future I won't need to write this explanation!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Font Sunday: Tea tins

The Design Museum in London plays host to a photo-sharing afternoon on Twitter every Sunday, all about fonts in different contexts. There's a different subject each week, and people share photos of interesting fonts.

Today's subject was tea packaging, which was the perfect excuse for me to grab a few of my tea tins, chop some bits from the garden, and join in the font photography. You may have noticed that I am a big fan of pretty containers (especially anything Tiptree) and of good tea!

There isn't much flowering in the garden now. I had some hollyhocks, but they've been eaten by caterpillars or some other hungry so-and-so. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar seems like an adorable story until you notice the downside of hungry caterpillars). But I had fountain grass and bunny-tail grass, sedum, a few asters, salvia, and a couple of David Austin 'Cariad' roses.

The tall tin is from Postcard Teas - a lovely shop on Dering Street, just off New Bond Street. The owner, Tim d'Offay, goes to the tea plantations himself to see how the tea is grown and to check the conditions in which the workers are living. The teas are delicious, and if you go to the shop, Tim or one of the other lovely people working there will make you a cup of the tea to try before you decide which to buy.

The shorter tins are Wedgwood. As well as teapots and cups, the company also makes beautiful tins of tea, in different shades of blue.

The pink Cariad rose was especially welcome after yesterday's rugby result. I've never understood rugby, but after living with lots of Welsh rugby fans in Swansea, if I had to support anyone, it would always be Wales!

Finally, here are George Orwell's instructions for making a good cup of tea. The article was called 'A Nice Cup of Tea' after the phrase that brings us such comfort, but I think "good" is more appropriate. Also, the phrase "nice cup of tea" sometimes reminds me of the film Vera Drake; not very comforting! I agree with most of what Orwell says, particularly that the best tea comes from India and Sri Lanka (I am a bit biased, though), that it should be very strong and leave you feeling "wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it".

I'm about to embark on a research project for university, and I know the one thing that will help me to get through marathon study sessions is an endless cup of tea!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Super blood moon

Last year I managed to take some decent photos of the supermoon. This morning, I tried to take photos of the "super blood moon", where a supermoon and lunar eclipse coincided.

I didn't use a tripod, and the exposure was so slow, most of my photos came out like this.

Some came out like this, looking like a red bubble machine.

When I tried to do something arty, like photo eucalyptus next to the moon, I couldn't focus on either of them.

But. I got up, went outside, and saw it with my own eyes. The poet Gemma Selzer reminded me that I was shaky because I was excited to see something so cool. It's true. That's the important thing - the experience. It's easy to forget that sometimes.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Leave it to compost

I had a wonderful English Literature tutor called Mark Loveridge when I studied at Swansea. It was he who decided I could do the undergraduate degree despite my inadequate A-level results,  he who had the sort of brilliant energy and sense of humour  that I'd only ever seen in films. And it was he who, when I felt like submitting a first draft of an essay, told me to, "Leave it to compost for a few weeks," before tackling it again.

Leave it to compost.

For someone like me, who overthinks, overplans, then gets frustrated and disappointed when things don't go to plan, or when I get tired or bored, this piece of advice was invaluable.

So, as much as I've felt guilty about not blogging over the summer, despite being on holiday from my current uni course and technically having more brain space to write, I think it was necessary to have a break. I've never been great at the regular, frequent side of blogging - as you can probably tell, it's more feast or famine with me. But the point of starting this blog was to enjoy it, and there's nothing enjoyable about feeling guilty!

So there are lots of things I could share here, and I will share some of them and let the others sit there. Maybe they'll compost for another four months and it'll feel good to share them at Christmas when it's wintry and gloomy outside, and we need a reminder of sunnier days.

In July, there was a surprise party for a lady who went out and bought herself pink peonies the day before. Luckily I was told before I went to the market! These flowers are a mixture of market flowers (pale pink phlox, snapdragons, white gentian) and home grown ones (red phlox, panicum/fountain grass, nicotiana, jasmine and sweet peas). I was given most of the containers to fill, and it was fun using unfamiliar vases.

Particularly this autumnal one.

And these beautiful, tall bud vases.

My Australian cousin was visiting briefly last week, and asked to go to the flower market. It was wonderful to have someone to help me choose, and to help me carry! As well as the market flowers, there were also buckets of sedum, roses, physocarpus, panicum and herbs from the garden, and foraged berries. It was also nice to use September flower in September.

Last weekend, I used the flowers for several bits, including this bouquet for a beautiful woman who liked the moody colours and chocolate scent of cosmos. This bouquet included one of my rare, homegrown dark sunflowers - which, unlike many of the sunflowers I've grown, has long enough stems to use in bouquets.

And of course, there were leftovers to enjoy. The chocolate cosmos scent fills the room - it's incredible that such a strong fragrance comes from such a dainty flower.

When these flowers die, you know where they'll end up? That's right - on the compost heap.