Friday, 30 September 2011

Weekday market walk #3

Neither Miss Moss Stitch nor I appreciate this unseasonable weather.  It is beautiful light for taking photos, but far too hot for one of our long yomps.

The Women's Library
The Women's Library at Aldgate

So we stayed local again this week and based our choice of markets and cafés around a trip to The Women's Library, which is part of London Metropolitan University.  Today was the penultimate day to see this free exhibition by French installation artist Françoise Dupré.  It was a small exhibition, but so lovely.  Loads of colourful creations made from unusual fabrics such as plastic laundry bags, tights and citrus net bags.  I wandered around promising myself I'd find time to do more sewing in the next week or two.  It was rather inspiring.

Autres Mers at The Women's Library
Les Autres Mers at The Women's Library

Autres Mers at The Women's Library
Les Autres mers at The Women's Library

Autres Mers at The Women's Library
Creatures made from little girls' tights at Les Autres Mers

Autres Mers at The Women's Library
Tights and hoops at Les Autres Mers

Autres Mers at The Women's Library
Plastic laundry bag art at The Women's Library

Once we'd finished admiring the art, we headed for Spitalfields market, close by, but instead turned a corner and found ourselves in Petticoat Lane market, which I used to go to in my lunch hours when I worked nearby.  I had completely forgotten about it.  We didn't stop to look closely at every stall, but there was plenty to fill our senses, and loads of fantastic looking cafés to tempt us in for coffee.  Petticoat Lane is a clothes and fashion market, set in streets full of fabric shops and dressmakers.

Petticoat Lane market
Petticoat Lane market

Down Petticoat Lane
A tailor's in Petticoat Lane

Petticoat Lane shoes
Pavement art and my feet in Petticoat Lane

Fabric shop down Petticoat Lane
Shop window full of African print fabrics in Petticoat Lane

What's not to like?  Although there were a few bits of weirdness too, including a (yellow painted) shop which sold real human hair.  Really quite disturbing.


Petticoat Lane

We resisted the lure of Petticoat Lane's cafés and continued on towards Spitalfields market.  This is a market I've been coming to ever since I first moved to East London fifteen years ago.  In this time it has changed - become more gentrified and chic, and less battered, comfortable old East End. is still lovely, and I still go every couple of months, on a Sunday morning, for a prowl around.

Christ Church Spitalfields
Christ Church, Spitalfields.  Designed by Hawksmoor.

On a Friday morning, however, the market felt empty and quiet.  There were some clothes stalls and cafés open, but not many people.  We went to Leon for a very tasty drink and cake, and sat and gazed at these handsome but still surroundings.

Leon, Spitalfields. Yum.
Leon at Spitalfields

Spitalfields Market
Quiet market halls at Spitalfields (with Gill running away from my camera!)

London Fruit & Wool Exchange building
The London Fruit & Wool Exchange, next to Spitalfields market

Spitalfields Market roof
Glass roof and steel beams at Spitalfields market

I think we will need to head back here on a Sunday to show you the market at its busy, bustling best.  We headed slowly back down Commercial Road to Aldgate East station, and the tube home.  The pavements pulsed with heat, and we squinted in the midday sun.  It was hot out there today.

Commercial Road
Commercial Road in the September heatwave

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

10 things

  • The phrase "she'd lose her head if it wasn't screwed on" is a cliché, but it could have been written for O.  She has managed to lose two school sweaters, one lunchbox, a piece of homework and two letters home since the start of term.  I am beyond exasperated.
  • Since the beginning of this week, O now has to wear glasses.  A second pair is on order because surely it's only a matter of time before she loses them?
  • I made tiffin.  It is evil stuff.  If it is in the house I must eat it.  Simple.
  • Tiffin in the tin
    Tiffin in the tin
  • My apple allergy seems to have disappeared.  In the last week I have eaten three apples with no ill-effect.  I haven't tried peaches or apricots yet, which give me a much stronger allergic reaction.  I might go and sit in the car park of the local A&E and eat a peach, just to see.
  • One of the reasons I married G was for his calm spider-removing skills.  He is busy at the moment because they are everywhere
  • Sainsbury's now sells paper loaf tin liners, which is great news because that's even handier than popping down to the new branch of Lakeland which has opened just one tube stop away.  I don't need to make Evil Tiffin any more, I shall make cherry loaf cakes instead.
  • Loaf tin liners
    Loaf tin liners
  • Both C and O have their birthdays next month.  Also my brother and my nephew.  I have not given this any thought at all, which is probably a mistake.
  • I am knitting, but not sewing much at the moment.  I need to work out how I can find more time to sew, because I miss it and I want to start on a wedding quilt.
  • Two cats down our street are loving this scorching hot Indian Summer.  They were blissed out on the pavement this morning, smiling at the sunshine.
  • Sunbathing cats down our street
    Sunbathing cats, down our street this morning
  • I must never, ever cut my own fringe again.  Lesson learned.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The University Parks and the teapot

A weekend in Oxford, visiting family, resulted in us driving back down the M40 on Sunday evening with windfall apples, wrapped birthday presents, an enormous jar of fig jam and a new teapot in the boot of the car. 

On Saturday afternoon G and I dropped the children off with their cousins for a couple of hours, and we headed for the University Parks, one of my favourite places in Oxford.  This has been a good year for berries - the bushes and trees were absolutely laden with them.  If you know of any hungry birds, tell them there's a feast on at the Parks.


Berry tree in the University Parks



We strolled around the Parks, admiring some very energetic games of tennis on the playing fields, and then we headed northwards, following the river back into the city.  Along the river there were the most elegant swans, a few punts, and some beautiful trees.

Punting past Parson's Pleasure

River Isis, in the Oxford University Parks
The river Isis, in Oxford

Weeping willow in the University Parks
Weeping willow by the University Parks

On the way back to pick up the children we walked through Wolfson College, and I had lawn envy.  They don't have moulting chickens and drifts of fallen leaves on their lawn.  They have croquet hoops and neat stripes from the mower.

Wolfson College croquet lawn
Wolfson College's beautiful croquet lawn

And this morning I find myself back in London, looking at these photos to see if the berries really were that red, and to see if the parks really were that beautiful with autumn colour.  They were.  I've turned the windfalls into stewed apple, hidden the presents, made plans for the fig jam and made the first pot of tea in the new teapot.

It was a very good weekend.

Oxford University Parks
The Oxford University Parks

Lavender teapot (and sweet matching milk jug)
My new teapot (with sweet little matching milk jug)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Weekday market walk #2

Today's market walk was a return to somewhere we really loved when we did our river walks in the spring - Bermondsey and Southwark.  We went inland a short way this time, to Bermondsey Antiques Market (sometimes also called Bermondsey Square Market).

The walk from London Bridge station to the market is full of visual treats - beautifully restored Victorian architecture, pretty cafes, a glass blowing factory, parks, pubs and shops.  Bermondsey Street even has its own festival this weekend.

South Eastern Railway Offices in Southwark
South Eastern Railway Offices at London Bridge

Air raid shelter in Southwark
Sign for a WWII exhibition at London Bridge

Flower shop in Bermondsey
A florist's in Bermondsey

Bermondsey street corner
A restored warehouse in Morocco Street in Bermondsey

The market looks very small, but there is plenty to see.  Somehow Gill and I managed to spend two hours there.  The stalls are packed densely into the market square, and each stall has thousands of treasures that must be inspected, discussed and admired.

We saw
  • silver soup ladles
  • miniature penknives with mother-of-pearl handles
  • beautiful Victorian thimbles
  • enamel earrings in the shape of sea shells
  • daguerrotypes
  • ostrich feather fans
  • hat pins
  • box brownie cameras
  • charms
  • tiny, weeny silver mustard spoons
  • embroidery on velvet
  • brooches
  • medals
  • police whistles
  • silver coffee pots

The stall holders were all so friendly, and happy to chat.  I asked loads of questions and prowled around quite happily, trying on dozens of tiny antique thimbles in vain.

Bermondsey Antiques Market
Bermondsey Antiques Market - small but full of treasure

Baskets and baskets of old silver and silver plate cutlery, mostly from Sheffield

Old cameras
Box brownies

After the market we headed for a local cafe in search of a cup of tea.  Al's Cafe looked just the thing, and we had proper mugs of strong, milky tea and buttered toast to revive us.

Al's Cafe, in Bermondsey Street
Lots of menu options at Al's Cafe - Bermondsey Street

Tea and toast
Delicious tea and toast at Al's Cafe

Walking back through Bermondsey to London Bridge, we suddenly caught sight of The Shard down one of the side streets - flashing bright reflected sunshine at everyone who walked past.  You can see some photos of The Shard from when we last walked in Bermondsey, back in May - they've made good progress since then.  I can't wait to see it finished; it will look spectacular in bright, autumn sunshine like today's.

Dazzled by the shard in sunshine
The Shard - dazzling with reflected sunshine

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Comfort amid the new and changing

There is so much that is new happening in our family at the moment.

Blue skies in East London
Blue skies over East London this week

C's new life at secondary school incorporates so many new experiences under just one heading.  He is walking to and from school each day rather than being driven or travelling with me on the tube.  He's doing several pieces of homework each night rather than just once a week.  He's making new friends, managing his own money and learning completely new subjects for the very first time.

G is taking up new hobbies and resuming old ones, with the spare time he has now that he is no longer training for the ironman.  His work hours have changed significantly, as has his daily commute across London.

I am starting new projects and using my time very differently to how I was a few months ago.  O finds herself in a busy whirl of birthday parties, ballet lessons, opticians appointments and new after-school arrangements.

All of this, without exception, is good for us.  I am excited and energised by the new possibilities opening up for me, C loves his new school, G and O are busy and happy.  And yet...sometimes the newness and the bustle can still feel tiring and overwhelming, even though it's welcome and we're enjoying it.  Sometimes we just want to curl up under a quilt, watch favourite, missed TV shows on iPlayer and eat pudding.

So I've stopped what I should be doing for the morning, and done some baking instead.  This bread pudding recipe, from my friend Nina, is the most comforting thing imaginable.  The children, G and I all rank it as one of our most favourite puddings ever.  It tastes wonderfully spicy and citrussy and completely hits the spot when you need a bit of comfort food.

Bread pudding underway
Stale bread, about to be transformed

Bread pudding
Butter, sugar, spices and fruit

It is not a very beautiful pudding to look at, but just like your favourite pair of comfy slippers or your child's old, beloved bear-with-no-fur, it is not meant to be an object of great beauty.  Its power lies in the fact that it can lift your soul and bring you comfort and reassurance when everything feels a little bit new and challenging.

Sink of suds
Suds in the sink

We're having our bread pudding for tea tonight, and then tomorrow we'll all be be back out there, embracing the newness once again.  That's the magic of this pudding.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

September sunshine

September is such a wonderful month in London.  We are in autumn - my favourite season of the year.  The clocks haven't moved, so the days are still long.  The temperature is balmy and breezy - cool enough for cardigans but not yet cold enough for coats. 

Autumn conker
O finds conkers on the way to her ballet lesson

And the sunlight just seems so bright.  It always seems that there is plenty of it in September too.  We soak it all up, knowing that the dark and damp of the winter months is not too far away.  September feels like a treat for the senses.

Cat, writhing in the afternoon sun
A cat, writhing on a hot patch of pavement, down the street

Shadow railings
Shadow railings

Sunshine and shadows in the hallway
Sunshine pouring through our front door

Shadow Nancy in the garden
Shadow Nancy in the garden

Self portrait shadow
Shadow Nancy doing the school run

Autumn sun
Dazzling autumn sunshine