After what can only be described as the world’s longest staff inset day, following a 14 hour school day with Open Evening, I met up with Paul in London for a Saturday of doing lovely, relaxing, bookish things. From a leisurely train ride with a new Persephone book to climbing into bed in flannel pyjamas warmed on the radiator, it was possibly the most therapeutic thing I could have done.
We braved the downpour for a lovely brunch at Giraffe, did a bit of umbrella shopping, stopped to admire the leaves in Russell Square Gardens and get very wet indeed. We made our way to The Folio Society bookstore where Paul had one of the limited edition Odes of Horace manuscripts illustrated by William Morris. It was boxed and wrapped and rewrapped so it wouldn’t get wet, so I haven’t had a chance to peep at it, but it looks to be one of the most exquisite books I have ever seen.
And that is one of the loveliest bookstores I have ever been into; wall-to-wall of stunning books, comfy chairs to have a sit-down, and being offered a glass of port and toffee apples on a steamingly rainy day. I have now added about a dozen more Folio books to my Must-Buy list.
We made our way to Mayfair and to one of my very favourite places in London, Heywood Hill. Part of my love for this shop is because Nancy Mitford worked here during the war, and I love treading the boards and picking up books from the same shelves she once stocked. (I still need to read the collection of letters she wrote with Heywood Hill…may need to go back just to snap that one up!) Paul found one of Nancy’s books with her autograph inside, and I had a lovely, ghostly encounter when one of the beautiful cupboards opened on its own while I was browsing the shelves. I like to think it was the kind of tease one of the Hons might get up to. I snapped up the most delightful looking book, Christmas with the Savages, by Mary Clive. It’s just the kind of read for this time of year and I’m trying to save it for when I don’t have controlled assessments to mark! The bookseller mentioned that she was one of the Pakenham family and now I’m eager to find some of her other books.
It was especially lovely to go into the Chesterfield Mayfair for a luxurious champagne tea after all the darting about in the rain. We had gone earlier in the summer for a tea in the conservatory while staying for my friend Kat’s gorgeous wedding, and while I like the beautiful dining room, I love the open and airy conservatory. I indulged in my love of cucumber sandwiches, nattered on and on to Paul, and tried to get him to look at my new book. It took me a few hours of thinking he was a weirdo for not wanting to see it, only to realise he’d slipped another book I had been looking at while at Heywood Hill into my bag. Lovely boy, he is.
You would think that after that enormous tea we would be ready to roll back out. But no. We were both attracted by the lovely Terrace Bar next door, so we settled into a comfy booth and sampled the range of Gin and Tonics. Paul tried Hendricks, and another I can’t remember, while I discovered that Tanqueray 10 is a bit of magic in a bottle. Needless to say, I slept very well.
While it’s back to marking and lesson planning and prosaic things like cleaning and laundry, it’s lovely to have had a day out with my favourite person. And waking up to the lovely things he surprised me with just made it even better. Truly, the most lovely and relaxing day out I could ask for.
In spite of the fact that I’m counting down the days until the end of term (19 left!) and starting my summer job of staring blankly at flowers until my brain stops whirling madly, I’m already starting to plan a list of things I want to do this summer. I am headed off for a few days in Yorkshire with the lovely Miranda and her equally lovely mum, Penny; I’m joining friends for a few days at Loncon and exploring the docks and East End of London; and will hopefully manage to sort out a few days at the beach, staring at waves and squishing my toes in moss. I have an epic book list ready to order from Amazon, several new recipes to try, and a few schemes of work to write for next year’s classes. But more than that, I’m so looking forward to making things again. My Mitford sweater is about halfway done, and while I haven’t whipped it off the needles to try it on, it looks like it will fit (lazy knitter these days). I have all the prints I need for my quilt, a stack of patterns I brought home from the states, and some lovely fabric to turn into Things and Stuff. The only thing I’m missing is the sewing machine. 19 days…
So it was doubly serendipitous to see my friend Rachel, who is over from Canada, not once but twice this past week, and to spend a good part of yesterday afternoon wandering around London with her. Rachel is probably the most advanced sewer I know, and she knew where to find the lovely fabrics. We ended up wandering in and out of fabric stores, all stuffed full with the most beautiful dress fabrics. I had to work very hard to resist a yellow lace that looked exactly like a kicking Jackie-O dress my mother had in the 60s, and several cottons from the outrageously beautiful Cloth House.
In the end, I did buy a small piece of fabric, a very light and delicate piece of navy blue and black poplin with a beautiful sheen to it. It knew immediately what it wanted to be, and I have just enough meterage to make a fitted tank with a deep dip and a formal soft ruffled edging to soften the severe pinstripes. Now, just need to get through the next 19 days…
Quite a lot of my friends have been having fun with Clovember, a month-long daily posting of their clothing. It’s been lovely, not just to see their different styles but to get to see photos of them each day. I see faces I love and interesting clothes and grumpy morning faces and people throwing silly shapes. I haven’t joined in because (a) I feel it’s a good day when I manage to get dressed and to the bus or train on time without adding photos into the mix, (b) my school has a blazer rule so my choices are rather limited to boring or very boring, and (c) I currently hate almost everything in my wardrobe.
I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing lately, as you do when the other 97.3% of your brain is occupied by teaching and can’t handle anything more challenging. My mother, who is buying me a gorgeous winter coat, put her finger on something that’s been bothering me lately about my style. What I realised was that a lot of my general blahs with myself comes from the fact that I find my wardrobe uninspiring these days. While I am never going to be someone who is fashionable or follows trends or looks like a model, I really like well-cut clothes in beautiful colours, and I appreciate that a striking outfit can make me feel immediately better about myself. I used to think I had a very definite sense of style, a combination of laid-back, preppy and vintage. I had certain stores that I shopped from and knew exactly where to go when I wanted something. It helped that I have been given a lot of my mother and grandmother’s incredibly beautiful jewellery, handbags, beaded clutches and scarves. Over time I have added to that with things I love, and with a rather massive shoe and handbag collection. When I moved to London, I got rid of a lot of things I knew I would never wear again, and the rest are in storage. I’ve added some warmer things to the mix since I got here, but it was mostly whatever I could find on the spur of the moment that I needed. As a result, my wardrobe over here is an odd mix of items clothing – just not my kind of clothing. I pretty much wear the same things each week, including the same jewellery, and as a result, I feel stuck in a rut. I decided to have a quick look at some of my favourite stores, both at home and stores I’ve discovered in the UK. I feel slightly relieved to discover that my style mojo has not completely disappeared…I can still find clothing I love and that excites me. Now to snag a few of these charmers before they disappear!
The past few days have been cold and rainy…so cold that I’ve pulled out my hot water bottle and started curling up under blankets. I love this time of year, but it can come with streaming colds and damp socks, so it’s best to fight these things by careful preparation. The clever people at Jones Design Company clearly thought so, too, and have offered the following “essentials” to help us enjoy the season.
I’ve been trying to think what I would have added had I a scrap of artistic ability. Starbucks cinnamon spice cider? Furry pompoms around the poor antler head? Picking up fallen acorns? A new cosy sweater to cuddle into?
I’m not really much of a designer follower, but Orla Kiely is a rare exception. I like her bold geometric prints and her classic, elegant clothing. So I was more than a little pleased with her video unveiling her Fall 2013 collection.
The rotary telephones, vintage typewriters, beehive hairdos, bored expressions and terrible typing…what’s not to love? And the retro skirts and cardigans are great, too.
One of my favourite things to do in Cambridge is to visit the market in the centre of the city. It may just be me, but it seems every street and passage ends up there, so inevitably, I do too. (Please don’t tell me I’m wrong – I don’t want to stop going!)
Paul has a book seller he returns to each Thursday, but there’s usually at least one book stall available every day, and I’ve found some really good books there. There are also fruit and veg stalls, beautiful flowers, people selling music, vintage clothing, all kinds of homemade food, from cheese and coffee stalls that smell divine to a constantly hopping Thai noodle stall where I spotted Sriracha sauce being liberally added so I must try.
Most of the time, I just stop to look at the book stall and pass through quickly, noting new stalls (bubble tea…next time!), but I was struck by a small stall selling ceramics last week. They were beautiful pieces, delicate and slightly quirky, and with the loveliest colours and glazing. I ended up buying a necklace with the idea that it would be a nice gift, but I’m fundamentally selfish so I’ve kept it for myself!
The necklace is fun; lightweight, which surprised me, and the blues and grays and reds and white should make for some colourful and interesting additions to my wardrobe. I was also struck with how she packaged the necklace, in bags made from magazine pages sewn together to create small pouches. A really lovely find. I hope All Gone ceramics is there when I head back for some spicy Thai noodles and a jasmine bubble tea!