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A photo a day: August 17th

17 Aug

We went blackberry picking this morning in Camberwell Old Cemetery. The cemetery is a two minute walk from our house and worth a visit as about a third of it is fantastically overgrown, with winding little lanes overhung with trees and a huge amount of brambles.

camberwell old cemetery

Just the perfect spot for a walk with the pram. Ahem

There’s something really romantic about the old graves, just peeping out through the foliage. When I go, I’d like my grave to end up looking like this one:

grave and blackberries

I’d like the snail as well.

Before the blackberry picking in the overgrown lanes, we walked the upkept cement paths first, in an attempt to get the baby off to sleep. I read the inscriptions on the gravestones, noticing especially those who’d died young, or very old, or at the age I am now.

Gravestone

Then again, maybe I’d like a gravestone with a huge statue on…

It’s sobering and yet somehow wonderfully beautiful to see the remains of all those lives, boiled down to one little sentence on a gravestone. I always enjoy the ones that say “To my darling husband” or “To my much loved Mum”… There are huge achievements you could reach in life, of course, writing books, becoming famous, making crucial scientific discoveries. And yet I rather feel that to be remembered as someone’s “beloved mother” or “adored wife” is a pinnacle that can’t be topped.

After these introspective musings, baby well asleep, we set off into the undergrowth and were rewarded for our bravery. We foraged a good kilo of blackberries, returning home an hour later covered in scratches, a few bites and with our hands stained purple.

Weed seeds

I did my bit to help the spread of the local weed population

The plans for these little beauties are some blackberry and apple jam / jelly (it’s used like a jam, but sieved like a jelly) and either some blackberry and apple leather or something similar to that. I’ll show you some pictures tomorrow, if they end up looking appealing.

Trug of blackberries

It’s ridiculously hard to photograph the blackberries together with any definition. Why is that?

This post is a double whammy, joining in with the August break and also being part of my Making the most of London series.

Related articles:

Artist’s houses

28 May

This time last year, we were busy house hunting in a (then) completely unknown area of London.

I was about eight months pregnant, the weather was glorious for weeks on end, I’d huff and puff round houses, stopping outside every one to have a little sit down and a sip of water. We did stupid things like decide to look round 13 houses in one day. And then wonder why we couldn’t remember which was which.

At the time, it was pretty exhausting. Looking back, it was really quite exciting: discovering a new part of town, buying our first house together, knowing the baby was coming soon but not knowing anything more about him.

But for a good few weeks, one thing was confusing the hell out of me. Why were there so many houses for sale? It seemed as if every single street we walked down had at least ten houses with a for sale sign outside.

Eventually, we paid a little more attention to the signs and realised that, actually, this is what they were saying:

Artist's open house sign

Not for sale, at all, but an artist’s house…

The area we were busy hunting in was, in fact, stuffed full of artists, all opening their houses for the annual Dulwich Festival.

This year, now ensconced in our new pad, I thought it would be fun to go along and check out some of the open houses. I’d been planning it for weeks, marking all the places I wanted to go and see on my map. The festival took place on the middle two weekends of May and I had a tight schedule sorted out, with the optimum route plannedbetween houses. (Yup. I’m a fun person to live with…)

Only thing was, when we set off, the baby immediately fell asleep in his pram, so we didn’t want to risk waking him by pushing him inside the houses. My partner said he’d just wander round outside and I could go in, but every time we got to the door of an artist’s residence, I felt a little bit awkward about wandering round their house on my own, sans money and without any intention of actually buying any art.

So, in the end, I only went in to about two of the planned route. One was the garden studio of Moth London, a duo who were making some gorgeous knitted cushions and lavender bags. This hugely appealing sign led the way through the side gate down to their studio:

Follow pink yarn sign

You couldn’t resist these instructions, could you?

Unfortunately, I was so over-excited at the sight of their knitting machine that I completely forgot to take any photos once I got inside. But you can see the lovely semi-felted knitted goods on their website: www.mothlondon.co.uk.

Luckily, for my suddenly self-conscious sensibilities, there was also lots of street art as part of the festival.

This giant mural was part of the amusingly titled Baroque the Streets installations:

Baroque the streets mural

I’ll ave ya. No, I’ll ave ya…

And further down Lordship Lane, an entire house had been “loaned” with different artworks painted in each rooms. This rather lurid painting on the wall outside slightly reminded me of some more psychedelic clubs I visited in Bristol back in my student days…

Wall art

No, you’re not drunk, he does have a third eye…

A bit more to my taste, was this amusing montage, hidden away round the corner:

Road sign turned art

Road sign turned art

The little cherubs at the bottom were completely oblivious to the fact they were having paint poured all over them:

Cherubs road signSo, once again, I’ll say “maybe next year” for actually getting inside some more of the houses. Because toddlers love quietly and calmly walking round houses to look at art, don’t they?

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A stroll around Peckham Rye Park

12 May

Part of my Making the Most of London series

It’s been dawning on me recently that I’m not so young any more.

It’s not the wrinkles and increasing number of grey hairs that are the biggest giveaway. Nope, it’s the way I choose to spend my spare time that is the real telltale sign.

Not so long ago (okay, quite long ago) (okay, probably a decade ago, in fact) a sunny bank holiday weekend would be the perfect time to sit outside a bar in Brick Lane, music blaring, cider in hand, the afternoon whiled away drinking with friends.

Blossom | Wolves in London

Blossom in the park

Nowadays, however, I can think of nothing more pleasant than taking a good walk through some beautifully maintained gardens, and boring my poor partner with the Latin names of all the nice plants and some “interesting facts” about their sexual reproductive systems (a sentence I say without even the tiniest smirk at the words “sexual” or “reproductive”…)

Luckily, quite one of the loveliest London park gardens is just at the end of my road and – provided your idea of a fun leisure activity is as middle-aged as mine – I heartily recommend a visit.

Peckham Rye is a large, flat, somewhat uninspiring expanse of green in Southeast London. But tucked away at the southern end is Peckham Rye Park; a series of beautifully planted and faultlessly maintained public gardens.

Peckham Rye

Peckham Rye; I say it’s flat and uninspiring, but actually it looks rather pretty when the blossom’s out

At its heart – and my favourite spot – is the Sexby Garden. The layout dating back to 1906, this is the secret garden of my dreams: pergolas dripping in wisteria lead to a central fountain, at each corner arbours provide shaded resting places, benches are tucked away in yew hedges, there’s a gentle buzzing as bees hum from plant to plant, the smell of the air takes me back to childhood in my Granny’s garden (it’s the fragrant Daphnes that are so heavenly) and the flower beds are planted in a formal(ish) way with clusters of vibrant tulips…

Sexby Garden, Peckham Rye Park

The entrance to the Sexby garden, in a month or so, these pergolas will be covered with wisteria, roses and clematis

Arbour, Peckham Rye Park

Well perhaps I might just sit down and rest my weary legs in this arbour…

Pergola, Peckham Rye Park

Wisteria buds just about to open on the pergolas

Tulip

I think I need to grow some of these tulips in my own garden. Beautiful, aren’t they?

Most days, I push the pram over the cobbles and daydream that I’m back in Victorian times, about to come across a boy in a wheelchair… (Okay, if you haven’t read The Secret Garden that sentence might sound a bit wrong.)

The rest of the park is perhaps slightly less impressive to me, but still highly pleasing. I’m planning on frequenting the dog-free picnic area in the arboretum many times over the course of the Summer.

Picnic area, Peckham Rye Park

Doesn’t this look like a heavenly place to have nice long lunch?

The “Japanese garden” looks like the sort of thing that would be described as an “English garden” anywhere else, but the stream through the middle always makes me stop and dawdle, looking for fish.

Japanese garden, Peckham Rye Park

Can you spot what’s so Japanese about this? Nope, me neither…

And the bowling green is as prim and proper as you could wish a bowling green to look.

Bowling green, Peckham Rye Park

I’d almost be scared to bowl on this immaculate green I think. Almost

It’s all looking particularly beautiful at the moment, with all the plants in blossom or close to it. The perfect place to wander and spend a few hours with my co-explorer…

Blossom, Peckham Rye Park

Is there a sight more cheering than a tree dripping with blossom?

Water droplets on leaf

These water droplets on a leaf took my breath away when I first spotted them

Baby feet

My intrepid co-explorer, soaking up a bit of early morning sun

If you’re in the neighbourhood (the SE15 / SE22 borders) then I do recommend popping in…

Related articles:

  • If you’d like to see another city in the sun, take a look at my photos of my recent visit to Brighton.
  • The UK a little too close by and boring? I’ve got a few from Hong Kong as well…

Making the most of London

12 May

I’m someone who likes to plan.

Not in a “did we buy enough bread to see us through to the weekend?” kind of way. More in a “ooooh, why don’t we move to Croatia in a year and buy a boat and sail to Greece and learn to make Greek food and then come back to the UK and open a Greek restaurant” kind of way.

(Actually, who am I kidding, I like to plan in the bread way too…)

The more plans I have on the go at any time, the happier I am. The very day I move into a new house, I’ll be checking out the “for sale” signs on houses round the corner, planning where we’ll go to next.

The minute I start to think about how much I like nicely-designed fabrics, I’ll decide it’s a brilliant idea to start a fabric business.

I’ve got three big plans in my life, right now. The fabric business plan. A plan to move to Italy in two years, open some holiday cottages and start to make cheese. And a plan to move out West once we return home from the Italian sojourn.

St Pauls, copyright Wolves in London

Yup, I live in a pretty beautiful city

Most of these plans involve leaving London in the not-too-distant-future and, as is my wont, I started thinking about all the things I’d miss once we do leave London – despite the fact we’ve nothing concrete set in place to do so…

But, then, in perhaps one of my more sentient planning moments, I thought that I should really make the most of London before we do go.

Along with, I suspect, most of the population of London dwellers (at least those out of their 20s with kids), I don’t actually spend that much time exploring all the wonders the capital has to offer.

I’ve been to the theatre once in the last year. Seen perhaps two art exhibitions. Eaten at lots of cafés and restaurants, but most of them right on my doorstep.

So, the latest plan is the simplest one I’ve ever come up with: make the most of London while I’m still living in it.

I’m going to arm myself with one of my favourite London-based books for some inspiration.  Used, so far, mostly just for armchair Londoning.

Tired of London, Tired of Life, gives you one thing a day to do in London. I bought it when I was pregnant, thinking it would give me loads of ideas of things to do with the baby once he arrived. Of course, what I usually do with the baby is wander round the closest shops.

Tired of London, Tired of Life

Presumably not by The Tom Jones

And since I plan to be out doing these things, I thought I might as well write about them here too, in a new series called… ….you guessed it… making the most of London.

My very first trip is a bit of a cheat, since it’s right on my doorstep, but it’s given as a destination for August 5th. So I started out with Peckham Rye Park. Head over to the article: A stroll around Peckham Rye Park.

Sexby Garden

Sexby Garden, Peckham Rye Park. Recommended for August 5th, but it’s looking pretty nice right now too

The next few things I’ve got planned are a trip to Nunhead cemetery (an easy walk from me, but still unvisited after living here for six months) and a repeat trip to the Horniman Museum.

If you’ve got any ideas for some weird, wonderful, cheap or just unmissable places and events, do let me know in the comments.

Places I’ve explored so far:

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