Wednesday, 15 October 2014

London. My fix of urban sanity.

Urban sanity.
Sometimes, I need reminding that London is just four hours away.
Particularly when Autumn turns soggy, and Gower is shrouded under a grey mist.

Ahhh,  Paddington.
My gateway to London, a very special station.
Yesterday was spur of the moment, an impulse trip brought on by a desire to be back on Brick Lane and to rediscover the galleries round London Bridge.
It also brought me back to Norfolk Square, and a meeting with the lovely Mike, partner of Masato.
I love working studios - the mood boards, works-in-progress, sketches - the tactile fabrics and artistic chaos.
It's inspiring.  And very different to my last visit to Norfolk Square.

My last visit to Norfolk Square was back in 2003.
My son was 11 years old, and we'd spent the day at Wimbledon, after a night under canvas in the Wimbledon queue.
Having missed the last train back to Swansea we were traipsing round Paddington in search of a cheap hotel, and mistakenly ended up at The Continental, which appeared to be charging by the hour, although I didn't realise at the time.
The first room we were offered had a plastic sheet flapping in the breeze at a window with no glass, leading on to a shared balcony.
On closer inspection, the room sharing our easy access balcony appeared to contain an unconscious man, lying on a bed surrounded by bottles...
 Needless to say we didn't stay in that room, but we did spend an interesting night at the hotel, with a chair wedged against the door!

Norfolk Square has been cleaned up, but The Continental is still there.
It now has glass in its windows.

I can thoroughly recommend the Fashion and Textile museum at London Bridge.
The knitwear exhibition is inspiring, and reintroduced me to Body Map.
Body Map!  Now there's a blast from the past...I'd forgotten about Body Map.
Body Map were my obsession during that first year at Art School - loved the photography, the strong could I possibly have forgotten Body Map!

                                          I'm now going to research all things Body Map.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Dear diary...Tuesday 29th October 1991. Avoidance and denial.

Nearly 9pm and I couldn't concentrate on the film.
I have absolutely no idea what it was about, can't even remember the title.
I can't concentrate on anything at the moment; my mind's all over the place and  I'm not sure how long I can keep this up.
Watering the grass with alcohol, pretending to be drunk when I'm stone cold's an act and I'm not a good actress.

Mexico City is eerily quiet.
 So many people have left recently, and there's no sound anywhere.
Even the crickets are in hibernation, a reminder that I can't avoid things for much longer.
Max is out chasing her mission, Bo is watching the film and I could really do with talking to someone.
Someone other than Avi.

October 1991.  Bubble World

Oh my goodness, it was tough telling Avi.  He despises The Underground and all it stands for - funny really, as back in '86 he gave me his phone number on the back of an Amadeus flyer - he's my oldest friend in Israel, with the twinkliest eyes and biggest personality, but mention The Underground, or anyone in it, and he's off on one.
Which is why I found myself back in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, wandering aimlessly up and down Ben Yehuda, to put off telling him.

It didn't go well - all the planning and rehearsals in my head, when it came down to it I burst into tears, it all came tumbling out and Avi disappeared into the night, thankfully not in the direction of The Underground.

The next day, his mother fed me meatballs.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The watery yellow of October and a prayer in a pinstripe pocket.

I love Autumn.
The colours, the crunch of leaves underfoot - the crisp chill in the air.
However, today was more soggy than crunch, shrouded in grey drizzle against the soundtrack of thunder.
A woolly tights and hot chocolate kind of day.

Stormy skies.  The view from my door.
Without exception my favourite fabrics are winter ones.

Wools and tweed and tactile blends.
On a charity shop trawl today I nearly bought a vintage pinstripe jacket to repurpose as a doorstop.
A beautiful jacket, but on rummaging through the pockets I found a prayer written on the back of a meter reading. Feeling slightly guilty at buying the jacket to rip up, I left it to find a better home.
As a not particularly religious person I'm not sure what it was about the prayer that stopped me - I'm usually quite ruthless when it comes to charity shop finds - but it was particularly touching.
I found myself wondering abut the man in the jacket.

So, minus the jacket but with pinstripe on my mind, my cushion-in-waiting is a snoozy woollen fox on a grey pinstripe.
Tactile and monochrome.



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Box envy. 5 things I've learned about packaging.


I have a love/hate relationship with packaging.
When it's all neatly packaged and ready to go I love it.
The process to get it to this point - not so much.
From the excitement of sending off that first order to wrestling with a sack of bulky objects in the rain, this is a list of things I've learned along the way.
 Before quoting a price for postage, weigh the item in the packaging it will be sent in.
And never under estimate the price of packaging materials.
The first item I sent was a doorstop.
I was so excited to get the order that I went completely overboard with packaging - tissue, ribbon, a beautiful floral box...all this before I even got to the outer wrapping!
Needless to say, it cost far more to post than I had bargained for.

My nemesis is cellotape.
I go completely overboard with the stuff...and when the package is cellotaped to within an inch of its life I   still find a place to add more!
What on earth do I think is going to happen to it?
Am I expecting it to be transported on a river?  Get left in the rain?  Have dubious liquids spilt on it?
There really is no need to use so much cellotape.
Reinforce the sides of the packaging, possibly a few more strips around it, then step away.
Overuse of cellotape is a habit I'm trying to break.

 Box envy.
 My items tend to be bulky, an awkward shape, or both.
 It is much easier to have a neat looking package if you are sending something small.
For many of my items, using a box would send the postage rocketing, so I use lightweight plastic wrapping, brown paper and lots of bubblewrap. Secure yes. Beautiful - maybe not.
And I am very envious of the neat little boxes I see in front of me in the Post Office queue.

 I firmly believe that the inner wrapping should be beautiful, but when it comes to the outer wrapping don't be afraid to recycle packaging materials.
 Not only is it better for the environment, it will also keep postage costs down - for you and the customer.
I am lucky to have access to a supply of strong plastic sheeting from my dad's factory unit, which is not only waterproof but lightweight aswell.
Many shops will be glad to off load their plastic sheeting as it would usually be sent for recycling.

 Midnight wrapping.
 When wrapping multiple orders, resist the temptation to do this after midnight.
 After a 2am wrapping spree the night before, with only jelly babies to keep me awake, I was on my way to the couriers when I happened to glance in my parcel sack, only to see two parcels with the same address!
An easy mistake to make when you're tired, but not so easy to rectify when the parcels are on their  way...
   And while I'm on the subject of pretty packaging - how beautiful is the packaging on this fabric delivery from Japan!


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Musing on 17. 1984, and the rocky road of adolescence.

Sitting on a bus today, musing on the ridiculous ''no travel on a Sunday'' curfew imposed by the resident bus company, I found myself wondering why I never learned to drive at seventeen.

To many people seventeen means driving lessons, a secondhand car and a new found sense of freedom.
My sister learned to drive, my brother learned to drive.

To me seventeen was, quite simply, The Year That Was.
Frankie goes to Hollywood, Top of the Pops 1984.

July, 1984.
I turned 17 on the 8th of July.
Frankie goes to Hollywood was ensconced at number 1 with Two Tribes, and my outfit of choice was a banana yellow jumpsuit.
With Boy George ribbons, too much makeup and very large earrings.

I was coming to the end of my first year at Art School and Cornwall was looming large.
That teenage milestone that is The First Holiday Without Parents.
In theory it was going to be a sedate cycling holiday.
The fact that I neither owned a bike nor rode one wasn't going to stop me.
In reality, the borrowed bike sat gathering dust and our Cornish cottage became Party Central.
Those eight days passed by in a flash.

And kickstarted a year of rebellion.

 July 1984 to July 1985 was a whirlpool of emotions.
Of angst and traumas and dodgy decisions.
Of unsuitable boyfriends, dubious friends and the ridiculous Cadillacs.
Of the unceremonious boot from the family home (albeit temporary) and subsequent dropping out of Art School.
Of various hotel jobs in Devon - in one particularly memorable pub I drew the line at ironing Y-fronts and was asked to leave!
And finally, coming full circle, returning to Sussex and finding an anchor at the airport.
The airport gave me stability.
And it sowed the seeds of kibbutz.

I will always be grateful to the man whose name I cannot remember, whose parting gift to me was that iconic backpackers bible of the 1980s, THE KIBBUTZ VOLUNTEER - how to become a kibbutz volunteer.

I wore that book out.
Which is probably why I never learned to drive.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

That September milestone.

Summer of 2014.
When you have children, September is a milestone.

Nursery, primary, secondary - each September heralds that unmissed alarmcall, a new class, a new set of challenges - a few weeks grace of books minus doodles, pens that work, hair that conforms.
And then comes University - only this time September brings mixed emotions.
An empty nest - a room devoid of socks rolled in cobwebs, trailing leads and rap.
Ah, rap - I will never love rap.
All the things that drive you up the wall, you miss.
Until four years pass, in the blink of an eye, and they boomerang straight back home!
Only now they're adults, and that's a whole new challenge.

This is the first September in 19 years that hasn't had the structure of an educational term.
And it's a learning curve...oh my oh certainly is!
I've got used to my own space, my now 22 year old son has got used to uni living.
Two very different worlds.

Summer of '93.
I never went to university.
Being distracted by many things I shouldn't have, I spent those years and beyond travelling.
When travel meant a rucksack, hitching and an out of date Lonely Planet guide.
And Kibbutz.
What self respecting travelling teen didn't end up on a kibbutz at some point in the 80s???
For me it was four, which brought lifelong friends, a sense of belonging and memories still vivid today.

Kibbutz was my university.

Summer of '88 - well, 21 is close enough to 22!
I'm wearing pink.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fifty years of turquoise.

Today is the bank holiday that symbolizes the end of summer.
Cue the rain - torrents of grey drizzle and low slung clouds.
Quite predictable really.
Unlike the new Gower bus service, which yesterday involved the usual changeover in the middle of nowhere, this time accompanied by a driver emerging from the trees carrying a large, red towel.
The mind boggles.
Perhaps he was expecting a marauding bull.
I was expecting a driver in a bus.

But as I'd had a particularly fruitful vintage trawl I let it wash over me.
Along with the mysterious trail of straw decorating the bus floor.

Oh my goodness, the lure of 1960s vintage.
And oldie, oversized aran jumpers.
My new favourite dress, albeit in need of a freshen up, is a vision of turquoise crotchet.
Amazing to think it is around 50 years old.

We think of impulse buying as a modern habit, but judging by the unopened packets of bed linen at this particular fair, it appears to have been alive and kicking in the '60s and '70s too!

This week has been one of international vintage winging its way through the letterbox.
My fabric stash has been boosted by Swedish daisies and orange hearts.
And I am currently trying not to be seduced by some particularly wonderful french acropal, and a bevie of tins, but I don't hold out much hope.
I'm not sure what's happening to my willpower, but it appears to have vanished.

And as a footnote an update on the fifteen year old minature rose that I'd ignored and abandoned to the point of extinction - the power of banana skins has worked its magic!
Not only has it gone from sad brown stump to fresh green shoots, it is now a mass of minature blooms!
And all due to the humble banana skin...