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Defining your Signature Style: a few photos

8 Jan

When I first moved from print to online journalism about, oooh, 15 years ago now, everyone was abuzz with the “immediacy of the web.”

Print is dead, they raved. (Okay, I might have raved a little bit as well…) Gone are the days of waiting to hear the news the day after it happens in the newspapers. We can read stuff now immediately on the shiny new internet.

Well, here I am today to show you the complete opposite; writing not about something that happened this very morning, but, erm, almost three months ago.

Hydrangea | Wolves in London

Yes, the not-so-shiny-new internet is still as fast as anything, but this old human dolt can still move as slow as can be.

Back at the start of November, I went on a photography and moodboarding weekend workshop, with Emily Quinton (of Makelight) and Gudy Herder (of Eclectic Trends).

The course was all about defining your signature style visually – through your photos and through moodboards.

It’s something I’ve thought about quite a lot when it comes to this blog. My photography is slowly starting to improve but I’d love to get to a point where you could look at a photo taken by me and think, “oh yes, that’s a Wolves in London photo”…

bowl and ribbon | Wolves in London

The first day of the course was focused on photography. We looked at three distinct photographic styles (minimalism, moody, and bright/colourful) and talked about how to take that sort of photo.

I was drawn most to minimalism: all white backgrounds, clean lines, simple arrangements and so forth. (I’ve got a few newly-discovered instagram accounts to share with you another time as well, for some gorgeous inspiration…)

vase | Wolves in London

So, off I went to practise and took a few nice minimalist(ish) photos and then, with the sun going behind the clouds, I took a few moody ones as well just for good measure.

Some of the pics I was more happy with are scattered through this post for your delectation.

Rosemary | Wolves in London

The following day was all about moodboarding with Gudy, which was really fascinating to me, since I didn’t – if I’m totally honest – even really understand what moodboarding was before. (Well, you know, it’s that thing they do in the Great Interior Design Challenge, of course, but I hadn’t thought of it in a wider context than that…)

Gudy showed us lots of examples of different types of moodboard, which I discovered needn’t just be the obvious such as pictures stuck to a background, but could also be collections of objects arranged on the floor, or even 3D moodboards including bits of furniture / paintings / vases of flowers and so on. I got loads of inspiration for things I might try and incorporate on the blog at some point in the future.

Then, in the afternoon, we made our own moodboard for our blog (or website, brand, whatever). For some reason, I completely neglected to photograph mine, but you can see it — along with everyone else’s — over on Gudy’s blog here: a workshop review.

Shells | Wolves in London

All-in-all, a really fun weekend, where, as is so often the case I find, one of the most enjoyable parts was meeting all the other people on the course and seeing the really creative things everyone else got up to.

If you fancy going yourself, Emily and Gudy are running another day next summer. You can find out more info as well as reading a (much more detailed) overview of the day on Emily’s blog here: Moodboarding and photography.

A snowflake bedroom

30 Dec

Hello hello! Happy Tuesday-in-that-odd-bit-between-Christmas-and-New-Year. I hope you had wonderful Christmases and are ready for amazing 2015s.

I’d meant to post this in the run-up to Christmas but, of course, what with everything else, I got a bit sidetracked and it never managed to make it out of draft mode. Still, it’s not specifically about Christmas, just winter, I suppose, so hopefully still of some small interest in these last few breaths of December…

Paper snowflakes | Wolves in London

Scuse the graininess, there’s no blinking light at all up by the ceiling in the middle of winter…

Because my Mum lives 90 minutes away from us, whenever she looks after one of the boys for the day, she spends the night beforehand in our guest room.

The term “guest room” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more like a “dump the junk that won’t fit anywhere else room,” stuffed full with car seats, concertinaed spare prams and teetering piles of craft supplies.

Ever since we renovated the house about a year ago (and then ran out of money before finishing the decorating, just like in every TV property show ever broadcast) it’s had some curtains tacked in place across the window, not able to open or close. It used to be the bathroom, before the big house reshuffle, and the window has been specifically designed to be permanently open a crack, an icy breeze filtering through at this time of year.

So my poor old Mum has spent many a night picking her way to a bed through a floor full of detritus, sleeping overlooked by stacks of boxes and, though mostly cosy under our warmest, thickest duvet, she has confessed to me that she sometimes puts a pillow over her head to try and keep her face warm from the draught.

As she spent Christmas with us this year she had five whole nights to enjoy the delights of our spare room. And, it being Christmas’n’all, I wanted to actually make it a pleasant experience for her.

The boxes and spare prams were banished to a desultory corner of our bedroom, the car seats stashed in her car on arrival and, most exciting of all, we actually put a curtain pole up, so the curtains could be opened in the morning, woohoo.

And then I thought, oh wouldn’t it be fun to make it like a proper white Christmas in there?

So, one evening, the hubby and I (well, mostly the hubby, really) made hundreds of snowflakes to hang from the ceiling.

Now she’s gone back home, I’ve brought them all down into the sitting room, where they sway endlessly in the breeze from the window and the heat from the radiator. What do you think? Quite festive, no?!

Paper snowflakes | Wolves in London

The one on the top right of this picture is my fave

I think the overall effect is actually quite classy.

Okay, maybe only a little bit classy and a lot kitschy.

I followed various different templates and patterns I found on Pinterest (obvs) — but mostly just hacked out little shapes from folded triangles of paper to see how they would end up. If you feel like brightening up your room in January, you can find all the patterns saved in my Pinterest board Homemade Christmas.

But, even better than this veritable paper wonderland for my poor old Mum, I also made a draught excluder from an old pair of pyjamas to lie across the gaping hole in the window. Otherwise, she may well have woken on Christmas day, a glacial breeze wafting across her face and — yet to put her glasses on — glanced up to the ceiling and thought she had woken to a genuine white Christmas.

So on that icy note, happy 2015 to you all! I hope you’ve got something lovely planned for New Year’s Eve. Me, I’ll be digging something out of the freezer to eat, scoffing the odd mouthful, inbetween the wake up calls of my two never-great-sleeping children who have entered all manner of horrendous sleep regressions over the Christmas week, downing as much wine as I can manage when free to do so and possibly watching an episode of Modern Family before, most likely, flaking out on the sofa at about 10pm. I know, I know, I’ll stop now for fear of making whatever plans you’ve got seem completely anticlimactic in comparison.

xxx

On the mantel: December

23 Dec

Ahhh, the Christmas mantelpiece.

It’s the one I remember most fondly from my childhood. Hundreds of cards jostling for space. An ever-growing nativity scene, ultimately boasting four baby Jesuses made out of clay, the child/sculptor’s name scrawled into the bottom and the constant pestering to my Mum to decide which of us had made the “best Jesus.” An advent calendar and advent candle hiding in there somewhere, the candle lit ceremoniously in the evening – though we’d frequently forget it for days on end, or leave it burning for longer than we should, so it rarely showed the right date.

Christmas is really all about creating traditions for kids, isn’t it? It’s something I look forward to with more excitement each year as the sproglets get older and more able to understand what’s going on.

December mantelpiece | Wolves in London

Oh so hard to take photos in these dark days!

My mantelpiece now is nowhere near as full, riotous or jolly as those we used to have when I was little, but I’ve got a nod to some of the same elements.

On the right, perhaps my favourite Christmas decoration of all time: an angel candle holder. The angels spin round and round when the tea light is lit… I’ve had it for four years now, but it was only when examining in closely with the sprog, that I realised each angel is carrying a different offering.

Angel candle holder

I could watch these spin round for hours…

The beautiful poppy illustration to the left is an RHS 2014 calendar that I discovered in the attic just last week… I must have put it away when we moved out last Autumn for the building work and then forgotten about it once we moved back in. It is absolutely stunning, so I’m pleased to be enjoying it for the last few weeks of the year, anyhow, ha ha.

All is not lost, however, as I plan to cut out some of the illustrations and frame them, so they can have a more permanent position in the room.

RHS calendar | Wolves in London

This is a poppy illustration in festive Christmas colours…

Of course, we don’t only have one Christmas card, the rest are on the bookshelves in the alcoves surrounding the mantelpiece. But I am quite fond of this little polar bear in his woolly hat…

Polar bear card

It must get cold in the Arctic. I’d want a woolly hat too…

On the far left, a fabulously kitsch Mary, Joseph and Jesus, nestle next to an offcut of our Christmas tree and some pinecones. The little nativity trio were sent to me by one of my oldest friends a few Christmases ago when we were out in Hong Kong, as part of a fabulous Christmas bundle to bring a bit of the classic British Chrimbo to our little patch in China. (Also included, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, a CD of Christmas songs and some Christmas tree hairclips.) It might well be the favourite parcel I’ve ever received.

Nativity | Wolves in London

Shiny shiny

In a slight aside, I’ve been pondering a lot this year how to explain the whole Christmas thing to the sproglet. I was raised (very loosely) CofE, but am not religious at all anymore.

(For anyone interested, the nutshell version of what I believe is that this short life we have here on Earth is all there is, so let’s all be nice to each other and try and make it as enjoyable and as much fun as we can. )

I’m not quite sure, though, what line to take with the sproglet when explaining various (mainly Christian) religious things. Obviously, we are actually celebrating Christmas, so do I just give him the story of Jesus, or do I preface everything with “some people believe that…”?

It seems like there’s quite a fine line to tread in there somewhere, explaining about all religious festivals, but why we only celebrate certain ones of them if we’re not, ourselves, actually of that religion. And why other people, such as friends or relatives, believe things different to what we (or rather I) do.

Anyway, he’s only two still, so perhaps I can worry about all that another year.

On a much lighter note, the ginkgo garland below is still hanging since last month (missing on a central leaf). I had planned to take it down and replace it with something more Christmassy, but I just love it so much, it’s stayed up there. I’ll leave it til Christmas Eve and then put some stockings up.

The fireplace remains unlit, again something for Christmas Eve, I think. Meanwhile, the wicker basket is full of blankets, for snuggling up under in these dark cold nights.

Candlelight, blankets and kitsch ornaments: I need nothing more from Christmas!

I’ve been showing you my mantelpiece each month since September, but have decided not to carry on in 2015. I’ve become aware that there are lots (and lots and lots!) of other bloggers out there showing beautifully styled, beautifully photographed vignettes from around their houses. Now, I’m not a stylist, nor an especially proficient photographer (see my struggle to get these images in gloomy winter weather) so I started to think I’m not really adding anything especially interesting to the mix…

I’m planning on sticking a bit more to what I’m good at: crafting, gardening and a lot of wittering, ha ha.

I’ll be popping back in tomorrow (Christmas preps all going well, at any rate) to show you a little crafty / papery project I made for my guest room and then it’s off to the mulled wine and mince pies and duck that we’ve got planned. Hope you’re all settling down to enjoy festivities…

On the mantel: November

30 Nov

Phew, I’m posting this in time by the skin of my teeth.

But, yes, though my thoughts have been to that big event towards the end of December for a good few weeks now, my diary tells me that it is still (just!) November, and here I am with my November mantel…

November mantelpiece | Wolves in London

What November’s like round my mantelpiece…

Of course, I’m far from the first blogger to tell you that there’s nothing like a bit of naychur on your mantelpiece to cheer up a gloomy and rainy day. I adore the good old ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) – it’s amazing history, weird biology (the only tree in the world to have motile sperm, doncha know) and most of all the beautiful fan-shaped leaves, a stunning yellow at this time of year.

I collected a handful of leaves from a tree that I like to visit (and photograph) in my local park and – ever at the vanguard of blogging trends – decided to make a little garland with them.

I used some red thread and just stuck a needle through the very end of the leaf stalk. I have to say, it was really rather a fiddly and irritating way of making the garland; leading to lots of swearing and pricked fingers. But still, the end result is rather beautiful (if highly fragile)…

Ginkgo garland | Wolves in London

Lovely, lovely ginkgo leaves

Not content to stop there, but ever a fan of overkill, I’ve also got some rosehips from the front garden (the roses themselves only stopped blooming in the past few weeks) and some pine cones from the park that I made into firelighters for my Christmas hamper. The fire is yet to be lit, so they’re just cheerfully sitting there for the time being.

Rosehips on the mantelpiece | Wolves in London

Sitting in one of my favourite Hong Kong Trappist milk bottles

It was the hubby’s birthday a few weeks back and the amazing rhino illustration was his present from the sproglets. (Bought from Mrs Robinson on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, along with an elephant and hippo.) Haven’t they got good taste?!

It’s just resting here for now, waiting for the hallway to be painted so it can assume its final position.

Rhino illustration on the mantelpiece | Wolves in London

Love this rhino…

The Letterpress card is really a beaut, sent by my cousin in thanks for some garden design advice I gave her last weekend. Tea and coffee mugs, what could be nicer?

Letterpress card | Wolves in London

Coffee or tea?

If you’ve seen my previous mantelpiece posts (September and October) then you may be relieved to note I have finally got round to painting it. Hurrah for small jobs completed.

So that’s November. Next month, ah, now that’s the biggie. I might actually try and get that sorted in good time for once…

On the mantel: October

30 Oct

October for me is usually a month to stay at home, tucked up warm with my slippers on, or out and about in wellies, tramping through the fallen leaves.

Wolves in London October mantelpiece

Flowers, pumpkins, books and invitations: what more could you want from a mantelpiece?!

This month, though, has been one of celebrations and parties; with two invitations up on the mantelpiece.

First, my Mum’s “second 50th” (eg, she’s not letting on her actual age) – a lovely afternoon spent lounging on the balcony of Court Gardens House in Marlow, looking across to the river and enjoying the unseasonally summery weather. After I gave a speech (slightly nerve-wracking) we all sang happy birthday and then members of my Mum’s ukulele group played a few songs, while I got a rare chance to dance with the hubby as the kids romped around with their extended family. The 50 50 card on the mantelpiece was our invitation.

Then last weekend, we were down to Somerset to celebrate my sister-in-law’s wedding. She was married in the utterly stunning and ancient church in Shepton Mallet (I’m not religious, myself, but I do love a good church) and then a fantastic reception in a nearby local hall.

Hand-stitched wedding invitation | Wolves in London

This was the hand-stitched front of the invitations.

She’s as fond of a crafting opportunity as I am and everything was handmade, from the invitation that you can see here, to the table displays, order of services, cakes, food, decorations… I was chuffed to have a part to play too: advising on and collecting the flowers from Covent Garden flower market. These blue monkshood and white lizzies in the vase were some I bought when I went to check them all out.

Blue monkshood | Wolves in London

Just utterly beguiling, I think…

monkshood veins

I love the amazing veins on the flower heads

White lisianthus | Wolves in London

I has these in my bouquet too, last year

I just adore going to the flower market. Firstly, there are just loads and loads of flowers, for extremely cheap prices. Secondly, you feel like you’re someone in the flower industry, which is real dream job stuff for me…

The bouquet was made up with these two, along with some purple lizzies, white astrantias (my favourites, actually), thistles, wax flowers, viburnum berries and rosemary and eucalyptus leaves from her garden. Just heavenly. (I think it ended up even more beautiful than the one I did last year for my own bouquet, actually…)

Portuguese bag | Wolves in London

Isn’t this a fabulous bit of packaging?

The glorious Aloma bag was brought back by the hubby from Portugal, after he spent four days there for work one weekend. It was filled with egg custard tarts. They may be one of my favourite, but it’s not enough of a sweetener to make up for the horrors of solo parenting (even with my Mum’s help)…

Underneath, a James Baldwin book that I have been meaning to read forever, but which is finally making its way to the top of the list: Go tell it on the mountain. I read the utterly mesmerising and haunting Giovanni’s Room many years ago now, which must rank as one of my top books ever. I have high hopes for this one.

Pumpkins | Wolves in London

The obligatory October pumpkins

The pumpkins, well, they’re self-explanatory, aren’t they? Actually, I am a bit sick of seeing pumpkins all over instagram now, so I apologise for adding to the pumpkin spam. I roasted these after I took the photo and added them to a really delicious beef shin stew. Now that is a good winter feed…

Of course, I haven’t managed to paint the mantelpiece still, despite my plans to do so last month. Nor have I switched round the painting, but hey ho, the days pass by and somehow nothing manages to ever get done in the way I’d like it to.

Next month, though, there will be great changes to come and witness! For, we are the proud new owners of a mantelpiece mirror. I’ll show you more in November, though I have a feeling it might make the photography a little more complicated…

Joining in with a few other lovely blogs who have been showing their monthly mantelpiece decorations: Tales from a Happy House and A Quiet Corner.

Do what you love

17 Oct

Phew, what a week! The blog’s been a little quieter than normal as I’ve been otherwise occupied soothing toddlers, solo parenting, thinkin’ reeel deep about what makes me happy and drawing my own hand. Yup.

Drawing of a hand

It looks oddly masculine, doesn’t it?

The sprog was taken down with a bug last week, which he’s yet to recover from, poor little pickle. And if there’s one thing in the world worse to nurse than man flu, it’s toddler illnesses. Goodness that boy has firm ideas of what he wants and what he doesn’t want when he’s under the weather. (What he doesn’t want can generally be summed up as: anything that involves Mummy not paying attention solely to him for a single second…)

Anyway, the poor little thing is back in nursery today, hopefully almost fully recovered and I have a teeny bit of headspace back again.

The illness coincided with a work trip to Portugal for the hubby (not jealous, no, definitely not jealous, no, would definitely not like three whole nights sleeping in a hotel bed the whole night through…) though my lovely Mum came up to help out too, so that was great.

On a more exciting note, I also began a few new courses. I’ve been back at Capel Manor College (where I took my horticulture course last year) to start a short six-week course in Graphics and drawing, the first step to a garden design qualification I’m hoping to do later on.

Drawing of secateurs

Secateurs. Drawn my me. (Copying another drawing, I have to say…)

It’s been rather eye-opening so far. I had expected that we would just be learning about how to draw garden designs (straight lines for the paving, scale plans of patios, nice big swirly circles for bushes and so on), but in fact we spend every afternoon just drawing. Anything! Like chairs, or our hand or a sphere… Our teacher follows the methods in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which, in brief, posits that everyone can draw, but that we need to let go of our logical parts of the brain (that tells us, for example, that a table is a rectangle) to allow our more creative parts of the brain to actually just look at what’s in front of us and draw it.

Cross hatching

This is just me trying out cross hatching, but I kind of love it the most…

As I’ve always thought that I “can’t do art” (to my endless disappointment, I have to say), I find it really interesting. Each week we break drawing down into small elements, in order to try and help us access this creative, right side of the brain. I drew my hand (above) in the first week, and though I’m certainly still no great artist, I’m quite impressed with the results!

NB, I realise that illustrating this post with my drawings from the course makes me look a bit like a 14-year-old doing a GCSE in art (or perhaps I am being too kind to myself? Maybe art GCSE is a little more progressed than this. I never did one…) And it’s not that I am so proud of my work I just had to show it to you, it’s just that the drawings were to hand and, like I said, time has been tight, so photos of drawings were easily achievable in a short space of time…

Shading spheres

Trying out different ways of shading. Bottom right is in charcoal, wot wot. That’s like the stuff that proper artists use, y’know…

On Monday I also started a month-long online course called Do what you love for life. I’ve mentioned here before that I sometimes struggle trying to hit on one specific focus for this blog, so perhaps it won’t be a surprise to regular readers to hear that the same is true for my life as well…

Though I’m still very happy being a stay at home Mum right now, the finances are starting to pinch very tight, and I’m thinking about what I can do as my next step.

It’s not that I’m short of ideas. Quite the opposite. I have about a million gazillion different ideas of all sorts of things I love doing, and I’m hoping this course will help me focus in a little bit and settle on a specific direction for where to go next with my life.

(Failing that, if anyone has a great idea how I could combine garden design, writing, blogging, making stuff, having a smallholding, owning alpacas and the ever nebulous fabric empire into a well-paid job in which I choose my own hours and always manage to do nursery / school pick ups, then please let me know in the comments, ha ha ha…)

I’ve not actually had time to do more on the course so far than the first few days’ assignments, so I’ll have to do a bit of catching up this weekend, but so far I’m really liking the clarity it’s brought to my many and generally very varied thoughts about what’s important to me.

Finally, if you’ve come here this week looking for my latest Grow, forage, cook post, then my apologies. (What? You haven’t recorded my posting schedule in your calendar?!) My next post will be up, a week late, next week; it’s all about planning a kitchen garden…

In the meantime, if you’ve not seen it already, do head over to Laura’s blog to check out her interview with Rachel from Fore/Adventure to hear all about foraging and the good life in Dorset. I tell you, my friends, at Fore/Adventure they’re already doing what they love for life…

 

In the garden: October

10 Oct

Surrounded by cobwebs, the last of the flowers are just clinging on out in the garden at the moment.

Garden cobweb | Wolves in London

A teeny tiny feather caught in a cobweb

Elated by the sunshine, I took a trip out this morning to photograph the few remaining splashes of colour, to try and hold onto them for as long as possible before the garden takes on its winter coat of unbroken green.

Actually, I love all the different shades of green you can find in a verdant garden, but I would like to add a little more colour as well.

I’m currently agonising over whether to cut down a rather large, browning, overgrown conifer that’s moping about next to our pond and planting some dogwood in its place: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (you can see some in my post about trees / shrubs with winter colour from the start of the year). The idea is, the bright red stems in the winter would reflect in the pond and bring a bit of cheer (and contrast) to the otherwise green vistas. (Ha! I’m not sure you can actually use the word “vista” if the total distance you can see is probably about 20ft…)

I had just started to write a lengthy essay explaining to you the pros and cons of the decision, but have deleted the six paragraphs on the grounds that it’s not wildly exciting reading.

Anyway, back to what’s actually there at the moment…

The two pink rose bushes continue to bloom: they deserve an award for outstanding longevity as I think they’ve both been in flower for around six months now.

Pink rose | Wolves in London

This rose must surely be one of the last?

Rose | Wolves in London

I prefer these, less formal, roses…

Meanwhile, my new Rosa rugosa hedge has been making the most glorious red hips.

Rosehip | Wolves in London

Peekaboo

In an equally impressive display, my perennial sweetpea is still (still!) putting out flowers. For the last month or so, I’ve been thinking every bloom I see is the last, only for another to appear a few days later…

Sweet pea | Wolves in London

Incidentally, if anyone knows by looking what type of sweet pea this is, do let me know. I no longer remember what I sowed…

In the back garden, there are lots of bright Hesperantha coccinea by the pond. (More usual name? Not a clue, I’m afraid…) I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of red flowers in the garden, but somehow, once the main summer has passed and we’re into autumn, my opinion changes completely and I am delighted to see such rich colours.

Hesperantha coccinea | Wolves in London

So cheerful

Behind them, my Japanese maple is still looking a little unhealthy, but has managed to put out lots of lovely purpley/red seed pods. What glorious colours!

Acer | Wolves in London

Ignore the brown, curling leaves and just look at the seeds…

And my lovely pink daisies have just put out a second bloom…

Erigeron | Wolves in London

I thought these were over, but some more just appeared

Finally, I just can’t resist sharing this photo of my little photographic assistant. He’s been given use of Daddy’s old camera and has spent much of the past few weeks in poses fairly similar to this one.

I asked him, “Are you taking a photo of Mummy?” and he looked at me quizzically, as if that would be a very odd thing to do, and said, “No! Taking photo of dis plant…” The apples don’t fall far from the tree, eh…

Toddler photographing | Wolves in London

Gardener, cleaner, photographer extraordinaire…

Photographing trees

2 Oct

Earlier this year I resolved to spend lots of time this summer photographing (and identifying) trees for my Instagram feed. (See A love of trees for more.)

Now, if you follow me on instagram you can’t fail to have been struck by a simple fact: you haven’t remotely been spammed with hundreds and hundreds of tree pictures.

Why not? It turns out it’s really tough to photograph a tree; decent camera on your phone or not.

Myoung Ho Lee trees

© Myoung Ho Lee

Recently, I came across a wonderful South Korean photographer called Myoung Ho Lee who manages exactly what I couldn’t succeed in doing and I had to share these images with you.

He takes the most awe-inspiring photos, each tree with a simple white sheet hung behind it.

Myoung Ho Lee trees

© Myoung Ho Lee

I never fail to be impressed by trees. Of course, flowers are really great too. They’re pretty and you can arrange them in a vase and suddenly even the dingiest most hovel-like room in your house is transformed into a place of beauty. But there’s something about the immense majesty of trees – their sturdy immovability, great age and refusal to be brought indoors – that makes them my plant of choice every time.

Myoung Ho Lee trees

© Myoung Ho Lee

If ever I’m feeling glum, or bored, or just out-of-sorts for whatever reason, a short walk to the park and a stroll under the canopy of ancient trees always, but always, brings a spring back to my step.

I think that’s why I love these photos so very much. They seem to say: Here it is,  just a tree, on a white background.

Who needs more than that?

All photographs copyright Myoung Ho Lee. See the website of the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York for more photos from the series.

On the mantel: September

23 Sep
September mantel

A little glimpse at my sitting room mantelpiece…

You may recall that our house is in a near permanent state of being done upness. (I’m pretty sure that’s the official term that all property developers / architects / interior designers use…)

We have little flurries of activity here and there, but fundamentally progress is slooooow.

The last few weeks, however, have been one of those rather wonderful periods of flurry. Brought about, as is usually the case, by having booked a tradesperson to come and do some work, which necessitates us getting of our lazy behinds and doing a lot of work beforehand…

In this instance, it was an excellent carpenter (female!) who came and built shelves and a lovely cabinet in the alcoves of our sitting room. Necessitating us to actually get round to painting the sitting room first. (I may be lazy, but there is no way I am going to risk spilling paint on some exceedingly expensive bespoke shelves by painting the walls after they’ve gone in…)

So, as I sit here writing this on the sofa, I am looking not at bare plaster walls, with a bare pine mantelpiece and a load of boxes all around me, but at some beautiful grey walls, lovely books on even nicer shelves and… …well, the mantelpiece is primed, though still needing its final coats of paint.

For the first time since we’ve lived here, this room is starting to feel like a home I would actually choose to spend time in.

Rather fortuitously, just as I was thinking about how nice it will be to arrange things on the mantelpiece, I came across a wonderfully evocative piece on Gillian’s blog, Tales from a Happy Home, with some pictures of her September mantelpiece. Did anyone else fancy joining in? she asked. I was already feeling tempted but was completely won over as I went on to read:

“It’s not about styling or making things looks beautiful necessarily (although that is fun). It’s more about the meaning behind beloved objects and pictures, and the place nature has in our lives, and the way we humans like to surround ourselves with treasures and memories throughout the year.”

So here I am, a whole load of wittering at the top of the article first, but finally ready to begin what will hopefully become a new monthly series showing you what’s on my mantelpiece.

September is an auspicious month to start. Perhaps because it’s the month of my birthday it’s always been one of my favourite times of the year. The flowers on the right of the picture were a birthday bouquet from the hubby, stuck in my favourite flower arranging vestibule: an Ikea jug. (The same jug of fame from my post about attempts at styling…)

 

Bouquet | Wolves in London

Lovely birthday flowers

You can see the hubby himself in miniature form next to the flowers. This little peg doll version of us was painted by him for the top of our wedding cake. This month is also that of our first wedding anniversary and the card behind was from the hubby to me on that auspicious occasion. We first met out in the Philippines on a marine conservation expedition five years ago and hit it off straight away. But it was upon discovering a mutual love of lindy hop (swing dancing) that we really connected. Though, realising that we went to the same class in London (me in beginners, him an hour later in intermediate) was temporarily so freaky that it actually put me off a bit, ha ha.

Wedding cake toppers | Wolves in London

Diddy me, diddy him

The bowl with the lion on has recently come out of storage as we’ve finally put up some shelves in the kitchen for all our crockery. It was part of our wedding crockery and is a mighty fine holder for conkers as well.

Conkers in soup bowl | Wolves in London

This is the first year the sproglet has really enjoyed conkers. It feels like a rather momentous childhood occasion…

The picture behind it was a present from sister for my birthday last year. As we’ve not had a decorated house since then, this is the first time it’s come out into the open air. I love it. A lot.

Wolves in London mantelpiece

My sister knows me well, I don’t think you could get a picture more up my street…

The huge bronze urn belonged to my Granny. When she moved into a home a few years ago, she left everything in her house and I went round one evening with my Dad, collecting a few things that I liked. I adore the urn, but am not entirely sure about keeping it on the mantelpiece – I think it looks a little bit as if we have someone’s ashes in there, no?

Urn | Wolves in London

Beautiful but a little sinister in that position I think. Must find it somewhere else to sit…

Underneath it, a selection of poetry books. I am currently absolutely addicted to the website The Book People (www.thebookpeople.co.uk). Have you come across it? When I worked in the communications department of a giant corporate bank they used to come and do book sales outside the canteen once a month, but I’ve only just realised they also sell online. There’s a huge amount of commercial tat, as you’d expect from a large discount bookseller, but you can pick up some absolute gems for next-to-nothing as well. These beautiful books cost me a few pounds I think. It’s pretty great for birthday presents, especially for children. (Lots of Julia Donaldson on there too…)

Poetry books | Wolves in London

Oh these just look far too beautiful not to be on display

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t be buying books on the cheap from a website, but should instead be putting money into my local independent and absolutely wonderful bookshop, it’s just I am so fricking skint right now, I can only really afford books if they’re massively discounted in the first place.)

(Even as I write that, it sounds like a bad argument to me, so, hmmm, perhaps I should stop using the Book People and just buy fewer books at a normal price.)

But anyway, onwards…

The fireplace below is glorious isn’t it? When we moved in, the original fireplace had been removed and instead we had a 1960s electric fire, which looked as if it might be about to set the whole house alight while we slept. We ripped it out and got this original one in its place (bought from the wonderful Blue Mantle on the Old Kent Road for anyone interested and local…)

Oh, and finally, the clock is just our clock. No story there, ha ha…

So, that’s it, the September mantelpiece. Come and have another look in October will you? Hopefully by next month I will have painted it properly as well… And thanks so much to Gillian for inspiring me to join in.

On writing (and blogging)…

15 Sep

Blackberry | Wolves in LondonI’m going through one of those phases where I’ve forgotten how to write.

It’s a phase that’s not uncommon to me, as someone who has made their crust for the past 15 years with writing in one form or other (journalism / editing / communications / whatever the particularly tedious brand of writing is called that is simply trying to persuade people to open yet another promotional email newsletter that they really just want to delete).

I think almost all writers would admit that they frequently compare themselves detrimentally to other similar writers. It was this irresistible but bad-for-the-soul trait that really diminished my enjoyment of working on a big broadsheet back in my 20s.

You’d pick up the paper every morning and look through it, reading the pieces by your friends and contemporaries most carefully.

“Great piece this morning, John,” you’d say as you bumped into John ten minutes later in the lift popping off for a fag on level one. But secretly you were thinking, “Bloody John, that turn of phrase in paragraph two was really brilliant. I’m never going to be able to construct a sentence as well as that. John’s going to get that job that I really want on the books desk and probably a reader is writing in to complain about the factual error in my piece right this very second and I’m going to get fired on the same day John gets his promotion…”

When I’m going through a bad writing phase, though, it’s not other people’s writing that is making me feel depressed, but my own. “Good god,” I think, reading some witty, intelligent and beautifully honed article I wrote a year ago. “I could really write then! That’s a great joke! That’s an insightful but deftly managed point of view I’ve put across there. I will never, never, be able to write as well as that ever again. All my best work is behind me!”

So, yup, that’s where I am right now.

My lovely friend Laura pointed her readers towards a blackberry and apple vodka recipe I posted last year. I trotted over there too, just to remember what I had said and thought, blimey, I haven’t written anything as nicely as that for a while.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve decided that it’s time to give myself a little bit of a break. Stop beating myself up about my lack of writing panache and instead to just ride out the lull until I get my mojo back again.

So, dear readers, if you’ve noticed a certain dullness about my posts recently, an awkward turn of phrase, a clumsy repetition, please bear with me. If my posting isn’t as frequent, it’s because I’ve written something and decided it’s all a load of rubbish and deleted it in a fit of pique. And if I haven’t made you crack a smile for a good few months, my apologies.

In the meantime, head over to my archives and check out some of my articles back from the days when I could really write… There’s a particularly tasty blackberry and apple vodka recipe you might like to start with.

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