TASTE/SEE: A random conversation in a supermarket queue this week about a woman’s pretty scarf coming from Broadway Market inspired me to go, after it being on the list of places I should visit at some point. An Overground trip to Hoxton + a 394 bus would get me there seamlessly. Or at least it would have if there wasn’t a 21 minute wait for the bus, so I figured walking was good for getting in more of the 10,000 daily steps and I might see something along the way. And yes, a few minutes into the walk, coffee and a window seat at Lie Down I Think I Love You. It is a bag shop disguised as a cafe. Or a cafe masquerading as a bag emporium. Anyway, the lovely man in there makes a good flat white, automatically brings it with a glass of water and is a fount of knowledge about Sunday-style Spotify playlists and vinyl. All is right with the world. And it turns out, having that coffee took pretty much 20 minutes, as I stepped outside to find the 394 bus just arriving. Jammy.
Broadway Market is really two markets – one in Broadway itself, running between London Fields and Regents Canal. There’s also the smaller market in London Fields school; as Broadway Market ends at London Fields, turn right and the school gates are on your right. It is mostly food – ingredients from small producers and farms – and street food with virtually anything you can put on a bun being some of the most popular. I bought some herbs and quail’s eggs and tried a cardamom, white chocolate and raspberry ‘dainty’ from Fiendish + Goode (it was good, although relatively tall, so there is no polite way to eat it). The chocolate ones in the photo are dark chocolate, prune and hazelnut dainties. There was blues music from two chaps on guitars and more from out from one of the street’s bars – Off Broadway. The street’s shops all look independent or are part of small chains (such as Fanco Manca). The only shop I went into was East London Design Store in Ada Street, just off the main market and if visiting again, would make an effort to go earlier or midweek to look at the shops properly. I would definitely go back again and take friends, especially if they were foodies.
Coming back from Broadway Market, a few transport hitches meant a stop at Spitalfields Market. As I was leaving, there was a kind of pied piper saxophonist and tuba player leading a group around. A quick google explains the saxophonist as Shabaka Hutchings, who was doing a ‘part performance, part walking tour’, explaining how he created a new piece of music from sounds around Spitalfields. Thank you London, for your random riches.
HEAR: Advertising creative Sir John Hegarty gave a talk at the House of Illustration on the nature of creativity. His view on creativity is that everyone is creative and that every day we make creative choices, whether it is the way we put our clothes together or how we solve problems. He mentioned the book Sapiens, about our big leap forward being fictive language that enabled us to tell stories and build large communities. He covered the importance of difference and of craft – honing our skills at one thing until we are very, very good at it – and his worry at how many people describe themselves as all kinds of practitioners, but in reality, they aren’t good at any one thing. He also suggested a number of things that would help creatives have more than a 10-year career before they ran out of ideas. They included hanging out with great other creatives, looking at great art (art he defined as always having an idea, otherwise it could just be illustration) and absorbing events and sightings around us. The latter is very much along the lines of ‘filling the well’ that Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist’s Way and something I’ve been following for many years. I was struck really early on in the talk how much energy and curiosity Sir John had and how similar in feel his talk was to one by Sir Paul Smith about 20 years ago at Tate Britain, buzzing about the small camera he always carried in his pocket to capture life about him. Both are inspirational speakers.
SEE/TASTE: Farmdrop hosted its first summer fete on Thursday in Bermondsey, celebrating its delivery system of fresh produce from local, small farmers and producers.
I was lured there by a promise of snail racing and pea throwing on one of the first warm evenings of the year. I didn’t see either, but did taste a DELICIOUS gin and tonic, with both ingredients made locally: Jensen’s Gin and BTW tonic water (entry included being given a coffee bean, which could be exchanged for a G+T). And there was amazing raw cheese tasting and enthusiastic chatting from John of Raw Cheese Power. I especially liked a soft goat’s cheese – so tasty. I also had samples of delicious scallop, smoked venison and focaccia. Chicken and all kinds of other meat cooked by Ben Spalding executive chef at the Shard’s Aqua restaurant, Soho’s Ceviche head chef Matt Burgess and Grub Club’s Rosie Llewelyn were also being handed out, along with craft beer. There were hay bales for seats, a burning brazier and music from The Bonfire Band.
There were some inspirational words from Farmdrop CEO Ben Patten, about how the company had started with some crowd-funding help and the Soil Association’s Helen Browning, about how ordering from the farmer (which is effectively what Farmdrop enables) is something that we can do that supports farmers, small businesses and rural land. It was an utterly wonderful evening, finished with a goody bag containing a bag of the freshest salad leaves and rocket seeds to plant at home.
HEAR: Sunday morning’s Columbia Road Flower Market is a regular haunt for me on non-rainy days. I prefer it before about 9.30am when it is quiet enough to look at all the flowers on offer without the crowds that arrive later. But then again, if you’re there that early, few of the independent shops are open nor any buskers. Happily, I was there mid-morning today and heard two bands who I would love to share. The first is Odo, a trio of harp, drums and bass (that is a Facebook link as I can’t find their website; the drummer said they had a track online). Someone put this video of Odo on YouTube, seemingly shot a few months ago, without the bass. And there was French accordionist Garance Louis and The Mitochondries, at the more established spot at the corner of Ezra Street. This gives you a taste of their music, although you can listen to a whole album on their website. She is also joining other singers and musicians on Thursday night in south-east London, if that sounds like your kind of thing.
TASTE: Brockley Market, about a 15-minute walk from the front door is somewhere that seems to be filled with cool people. I have no idea where they come from. They bring dogs, children with balloons, bicycles and could give Hoxton a run for its money. And this is all in a carpark in the shadow of Lewisham College, a stone’s throw from the back end of Lewisham on Saturdays. Visitors seem to peak at lunch-time (the market runs 10am-2pm) with London’s favourite food vans and stalls busier than those selling raw ingredients. It is an amazing place for a hangover – all that fresh air, rustic seating on pallets, hearty burgers, tortillas and this week, iced coffee. My haul yesterday: free range eggs from East Sussex, flowering chives and a fat, organic lettuce.
HEAR: I tried listening to Classic FM, after hearing it in the car of a friend. Alas, on my iPhone Tune-in app, it kept rebuffering, so I returned to Spotify. Today’s find was Spotify playlist Sweet Sunday Soul, which I have mainly appropriated and edited to make into Sunday Soul. Do have a listen and let me know what you think. It includes artists such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Fontella Bass and Al Green. It went rather well snuggled with a coffee inside, rain and gloom outside.
SEE: I read Style Forever, the ‘grown-up guide to looking fabulous’ by Alyson Walsh, who has the fashion blog That’s Not My Age, about grown-up style. It was released a few months ago and is VERY, VERY good. It has beautiful illustrations by Leo Greenfield and profiles of older stylish women dotted through the advice on clothing and beauty. My favourite piece of advice is to spend money on decent shoes. While this may seem a rather old-fashioned piece of advice Alyson explains that wearing flimsy flat shoes for extended periods of time (or just being over 40) can trigger painful plantar fasciitis. She also lists 10 items you’re never too old for, which includes the latest ‘it’ trainers. So with these two pieces of information in mind, this week I bought a pair of bright blue New Balance trainers with neon pink laces. I could almost be down with the cool kids at Brockley Market. Almost.
SEE: A friend and I spent a day at Clerkenwell Design Week, mostly finding ‘Wordplay’ – a collection of words made into sculptures by Monotype which you could find via a postcard map. My favourite was Explore.
Here are the others: Enjoy, Discover, Inspire, Celebrate, Experience and See. The latter was the letters on separate sheets of mirror in a garden – a complete nightmare to photograph but my second favourite for its cleverness and way it fitted with the greenery.
In St John’s Square, architects Cousins + Cousins created Glaze, a glass structure and asked visitors to suggest uses for it. The top photograph on this post is a detail of Glaze; it really was a photogenic structure.
TASTE: Finally, small tasty strawberries – does this mean it is officially shorts weather now? Certainly it seemed like summer on my balcony this morning.
HEAR: I have been living in my Live/Work apartment in Greenwich for nine years this week. As kind of celebration, I attended Evensong at the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Chapel, with the Trinity Laban Old Royal Naval College Chapel Choir and the Schola Cantorum of Yale University. It was breath-taking. And very exclusive – about 35 people attended. This seemed the most incredible shame, given that it wasn’t a secret event – the ORNC had it listed on its website and had tweeted about it – how I had heard about it. If you do go, just be aware that it isn’t sign-posted: the main doors are closed and you have to go in a side entrance. I guess it is to try to avoid a group of tourists arriving mid-service, which did happen at the end anyway.
Oh, and there was Eurovision last night. My vote went to the Austrians with the ’80s power ballad and fiery piano. Sadly the rest of the world didn’t agree at all and they received ‘nul points’. If you missed it or want to relive the final 27 songs, here is a Eurovision Spotify playlist.
SEE: I tried screen printing in a workshop with Zeena Shah at Bust London Craftacular today. Zeena made it all seem so easy: draw a design on a piece of paper, using either the negative or positive. Then put the pieces on a tea towel or tote, put the screen on top, three big dollops of paint at the top of the screen and drag the squeegee almost 90 degrees to the screen across the design three times, scooping the paint from the bottom to the top in between drags. We removed the paper from the screen and handed it onto the next person, then used a hairdrier to dry our printed item. It all seemed so simple! It is simple when an experienced professional is guiding you every step of the way and we won’t mention the fuzziness at the bottom of the postbox. Others printed a house, a date celebrating a wedding anniversary (tomorrow), penguins and stylish dachshunds.
TASTE: Sometimes it is the simple things in life that are memorable. While waiting for friends in Thames Ditton, I stopped by Limetree cafe and deli. They had hand-squeezed orange juice – delish! It helped that the sun was shining and Thames Ditton is one of the cutest places I’ve ever been.
HEAR: Blues legend BB King died this week, after a long illness. He leaves behind wonderful memories of his performance at the Royal Albert Hall about 15 years ago and an incredible legacy. If you don’t know his music – and chances are you have heard it – The Daily Beast has compiled a list of stand-out tracks here. It includes a couple of my favourites: Every Day I Have The Blues and Let The Good Times Roll.
Here are a few things I tasted, heard and saw this week.
HEAR: Art and architecture historian and television presenter Dan Cruickshank (above) gave a talk on the English Baroque at the Old Royal Naval College this week. He was FASCINATING! His passion for his subject, especially the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, makes listening and learning easy. He knowingly and charmingly ran 15 minutes overtime and could probably have talked for another hour or two without drawing breath. This was the first in a series of ORNC Architecture for All talks and he is talking again on May 28.
TASTE: Inspired by Instagram posts, I tried fruit water – that is, putting fruit into water overnight to infuse the water with fruity tastes. I had done this previously with lemon and cucumber, which were both delicious, but didn’t know whether there would be much taste in the likes of a whole strawberry. Five whole strawberries in 1.5 litres of water added a lovely light taste, as did about 10 blueberries. Next week, I want to try some soft fruit such as a peach as well as a green teabag for an iced tea drink with virtually no sugar.
SEE: I don’t have a TV, but did watch the BBC Young Dancer competition last night online. I enjoyed every kind of dance represented, especially the works that had been choreographed especially for each dancer and the music was fascinating – ballet, Asian, hiphop, contemporary – well worth a watch if you’re able to connect with iPlayer.
SEE: Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Place over the forthcoming station opened partially this weekend, with a promotion throughout the other mall areas involving many musicians and meringues from The Meringue Girls. Musicians included the Xavior Quartet playing the likes of Love Cats by The Cure and Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again and singer/guitarist Jamie Balcanquall. It was SO lovely to have live music while out and about. The Foster + Partners’ Crossrail Place has a roof garden, partially open to the elements, unlike the one at the top of the Walkie Talkie building. The photographs above and below are from the Crossrail roof garden and the path getting there.
TASTE: This week was a bit of a dud as far as deliciousness goes. There was a disappointing quiche when out and a Deliciously Ella berry ‘cheesecake’ style dessert from her app that was an epic fail on flavour and presentation when I made it for friends. There are no photographs – it was just too sad.
SAW my own copy of Emily Quinton’s Maker Spaces, which was launched last week. It was delivered wrapped in stunning ribbon from one of the makers in the book, textile artist Vicky Trainor and included a letterpress card by Kimberly Austin.
Saw the first half of Light Shining in Buckinghamshire by Caryl Churchill at the National Theatre. STUNNING design at the start, with a large sloped platform in the centre, almost like a stage on a stage, which started as a banqueting table with candelabras, shiny platters and goblets surrounded by dining gentlemen in velvet. An antiqued mirror suspended above, reflected the action, lighting and smoke, adding a dramatic visual layer. The play itself wasn’t my cup of tea, so I left at the interval. Still glad I went, though. Oh, and the singing at the start was fab. You can see a photo of the production’s first half in this Guardian review.
HEARD: Blues Connection station on Tune-in radio app on the iPhone for the first time. I’ve been listening to blues for many years and this station was a great one to discover many news artists including Willie Mabon (The Seventh Son), Bex Marshall, Percy Strother, BooBoo Davis and Skinny Molly as well as those more familiar such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Roomful of Blues and Charlie Musselwhite.
Less musical, but very effective, was the new sound of AwayFind alert, also on the iPhone. It notifies you if emails with a particular phrase or from an address you nominate are sent to you, so you don’t have to keep checking your email if you’re waiting on something – a great find from a tweet on productivity … we just won’t mention the 20+ minutes spent browsing the website the tweet linked to. Ahem.
TASTED: The first strawberries of the year. They were a bit tart, as expected and now am doing my best to be patient in waiting a few more weeks for
The first printable quote is from the Instagram feed of Jack Monroe (@msjackmonroe) this week. Here is her whole quote: “Life just got better. Sticky toffee pud with butterscotch sauce and honeycomb ice cream and a Picpoul AND a dessert wine, oh my local does look after me. Finding my happy again. When life gives you lemons REJECT THEM AND DEMAND PUDDING AND WINE INSTEAD.”
It very much seems a quote to live by! If you haven’t heard of Jack or her blog A Girl Called Jack and like food on a budget, do have a look. Her blog started as a place to talk about politics and developed a following for the recipes she cooked for herself and her son, living on £10 a week. Those recipes led to a book deal, a Guardian column and now a second book. Jack still talks politics and a great deal of common sense on her Instagram and Twitter feeds. And she’s funny.
Download Jack’s A4 printable quote by clicking on the image on the left.
Living Abstracts has had a number of focuses since its start several years ago: creative inspiration in London, what to wear if you don’t follow fashion trends, Instagram and planners + time management. It finally hit me in the past month that I am interested in ALL of these things – and all of them are about having greater beauty in our lives. Talk about a ‘Doh’ moment!
There is a new Sunday column – See / Hear / Taste – which has items about what I have seen, heard and tasted in the week. And a range of other items on Wednesdays. I’m so happy that the blog feels whole now.
To help support the new style, I’ve moved the site from SquareSpace, where it has been for about a year, and rebuilt it in WordPress. It is still being tweaked, some older blog posts need new images and the shop has been closed for now. I’ll let you know when it returns.
So, onto a wardrobe discussion. This was sparked last week at the launch of Emily Quinton’s Maker Spaces book at West Elm in London by meeting stylist and blogger Jane Day of Tea with Ruby, pictured on the left. She was wearing a fabulous long, navy dress that looked cool, smart and relaxed. What we especially loved about it was it being long enough so that she could wear flip-flops or other flat sandals.
The maxi or almost maxi also seemed to be the answer to what a female wedding photographer wears to a summer wedding – another discussion had with a colleague earlier in the week. We need to wear flats of some kind, given that we are carrying around heavy equipment and may need to walk for an hour or two on some shoots. We sometimes end up lying on the ground or in other odd positions, so the only realistic options are trousers or maxi skirts. I love ASOS for basics like maxi skirts (and its VIP membership for £10 a year gets you free next-day delivery, good value if you use them more than a couple of times) and Jane recommended Cos; since she doesn’t live near a branch, her Cos shopping is all done online.