Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cool Britannia

I've been collecting red. white and blue fabrics from various sources, mostly given to me, or liberated from its fate as landfill.

So today this:

                                            became this!      

I'm now inspired to make a sofa throw, but more patchworky in style.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Dreaming Spires

I had a lovely day in Oxford today, by train.A sunny day, despite the threat of  'a 40% chance of precipitation' according to the met office!

I spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the Ashmolean Museum, much improved and extended now, very well curated. I limited myself to just a few galleries; (and saved others for later) Pre-Christian Mediterranean, Chinese and Japanese (including some tiny tiny netsuke and irono, Samurai armour, a tea-ceremony house, and some amazingly intricate papercuts) instruments;  (a Strad, some Amati and Stainers amongst other beautiful violins - such a shame they are in a museum, though and not being enjoyed by players and listeners alike; and the paintings (my pick - 3 Turners, including one of Oxford, a large collection of Pre-Raphaelites, a fabulous Manet oil sketch that looks like a Picasso, a whole room of Sickert, another of French Impressionists and the first Constable I've really liked, of only clouds. Tea in the basement café afterwards.

It's a wonderful place to wander, around every corner there is a new photo opp. Here are just a few of the many...

Through the Arched Window.........

Worcester College

Lincoln College

Jesus College

More archways




Another fabulous haberdashery shop with my name on it! Bought some lovely bits of trimmings, but they'll be for presents, so won't post them till they have been presented to the recipients!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Here as promised is a quick glimpse of Lille. Much more do-able in a day than Paris, as everywhere is within walking distance, although there is a Metro and tram. Only 1 1/2 hours from St Pancras on super fast super comfy Eurostar, 65 pounds day return. I arrived at 11 and left at 6.30, had a nice long day. I spent 2 hours in the Palais des Beaux Arts, which was my main aim, as it was closed the last time I went to Lille, wandered around the Old Town, did a bit of shopping, and took lots of photos.

The Palais is well worth a visit - they have a huge collection of paintings; mostly 17th cent Northern European scenes and portraits, but a Turner (hooray!) a couple of Renoir, Manet and Monet (the one of the Thames and Big Ben) a few Sisley, a Picasso, a Leger and a Constable as well as some amazing sketches and cartoons from the 16th century. They have a wonderful collection of porcelain and ceramics from all over the world, sculptures in plaster, marble and bronze, an Egyptian section with 5000 year old sandal soles, and a mummified falcon and cat (that looked like a dolly as it was tiny and had a face drawn on it! Most bizarre!) amongst other sarcophagus offerings, and scale models of Northern French and Belgian towns from the early 1700s, precise to the last tree and house, to help design fortifications to defend against the approaching Austrian army. Fascinating.

                                       Old Town market square, unfortunately Friday isn't market day

Lovely doors

Caryatids always remind me of Prague

Detail on Opera House

Look up!

The perfect shop! Sells all manner of haberdashery: ribbons, beads, lace, buttons...


Friday, 19 August 2011

Mon Anniversaire en France

I spent my birthday in Lille, by Eurostar. More tomorrow, but this formidable selection of patisserie will, I hope, whet the appetit!

                                                               Délicieux, n’est pas?

Prom and Bluebirds

Yesterday I went to the Prom with Paul. An all-Russian programme: Shostakovich L'Age d'Or and 2nd Violin Concerto, with Elisabeth Batiashvili (who has a most beautiful sounding Stradivarius, the Engelmann) which was fantastic. After the interval, Stravinsky's Petrushka and Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, so a brilliantly orchestrated, loud evening with plenty of musical fireworks, amazing percussion and terrific rhythms. Well worth the queue in the rain.

This evening Anthony and I went to see "Bluebirds", at Above the Stag. I really like the venue - up a side staircase of the pub, with only about 50 seats, and you are right on top of the stage.We've seen "Blink" there on two previous occasions, and the productions are always really good. It's a musical of sorts, set in a 1945 ENSA theatre, with songs from the war. Good cast and some great numbers which fitted around the characters storylines. Two of my favourite songs were there too, Blue Skies, and A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. A most enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


I went down to spend a couple of days with Mummie, and today we went to see some of the Pride of Bournemouth, a collection of 50 lions spread out over the town sponsored by individuals, companies, organisations and schools and decorated by artists, like the elephants in London last summer, and the cows in New York. They'll be auctioned next month by Martin Clunes, with the proceeds going to Julia House hospice and the Born Free foundation. Here are some of my favourites.

                     Winston, in the entrance to Beales, with quotations from Mr Churchill on his back.

                                                     Firestar, in the Gardens. He was all mosaic.

                                                          Fireworks, in Old Christchurch Rd

                                                        Oscar, outside the Royal Bath hotel

O ye beasts of Fowl, in the garden of the Russell-Cotes museum.

We took a turn around the gardens before going in to the museum, and then having lunch in the cafe.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Swan Lake

What a fantastic afternoon! Yvonne had never been to the ballet, so I arranged for us to see Swan Lake at the Coliseum for our birthdays next week. But- ballet with a difference; presented by the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe of China. The principals' set pieces were more or less faithful to Petita's original choreography, but the pas-de-deux had Odette pirouetting on the Prince's shoulder, his hand (with his arm vertical) and his head! She's only tiny and 7 stone, but still.....! Amazing! Add to the mix lifts on unicycles, juggling, tightrope-en-pointe, tumbling and landing en pointe (ow!), contortionists, gravity- and laws of physics-defying balances, juggling, the corps de ballet on roller skates so they could glide like real swans, ungainly just-born-out-of-suitcases male cygnets resplendent in tutus, and frogs dancing on handstands and you get the picture. Totally original and a real spectacle. Do catch them if you get the chance. Last day in London today, but touring afterwards, or look here on youtube:


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Brighton Rock

A day by the seaside in Brighton today. I wandered around the Lanes this morning, and had rock salmon and chips for lunch on the seafront; de rigueur for a day at the beach.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon at the Art Gallery and Museum, in the Pavilion Gardens, where there was an Egyptian Room, Fashion of the last 150 years, Design of the 20th century, with furniture, homeware, silver, some local history and World artefacts. The Pavilion itself is so pretty, sugar-coated like a wedding cake.

                                                      Some pretty houses with cottage gardens

                                                                    And a pretty shop

                                                                Guess what these sell!

                                            Impressive ironwork for a Tapas restaurant

Then a stroll around the North Laine, browsing in the shops and buying some presents, and along this wonderfully-named street, I made my way back to the station and back to London. A lovely bright(on) sunny day!