29 Oct 2015

a walk in the woods

I saw an article on the guardian website the other day which talked about how spending time in the woods (or with nature in general) can do you the world of good. After the shit couple of days I've had, I could really do with a walk in the woods but instead I'll recall Sunday's stroll on Chatley Heath...

When we were little, my parents used to take my sister and I to visit the semaphore tower at Chatley Heath. We went in all seasons but my best memories are from when we visited in the autumn. You see, the last bit of the path to the tower is lined with chestnut trees and we used to fill out pockets with sweet chestnuts to be roasted when we got home. Sunday was just like old times :) too bad the tower was closed, it would've been good to go up it again. The sun was setting as we headed back towards the car park and the light was so beautiful. These pictures don't really do it justice but you get the idea.

Hope you're all having better weeks than I am.

25 Oct 2015

Garden update: winter is coming

So the last time I talked about the garden we were doing pretty well - tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, beetroot. Fast forward a couple of months and the garden is winding down somewhat, mostly thanks to these early sunsets and chilly mornings. Mind you, it's not stopped our tomato plants! Last weekend we picked a whole bag full, all green but they're ripening very nicely on the kitchen windowsill.

It was actually the last veg haul of 2015 as last weekend we also decided to cut back our giant tomato and chilli plants, in the hopes that they'll conserve their energy and, along with some TLC from us over the winter months, come back to life in the spring. I've no idea if this is possible but hey, this whole thing has been a trial and error adventure so we thought we'd have a go. Although we'll be able to keep the chilli, tomato and various herbs indoors, there's no way to save our mighty courgette plant which is a shame. Nor is there anything to do about the cauliflower and broccoli, we'll just have to see how hardy they really are.

Looking back to my first post about the garden, it pleased me a lot to find it's been just over a year since our little project started out. A year of hard graft - hours of digging, clearing, shredding, planting, tending, watering. And was it worth it? Hell yes! We most definitely filled our boots this summer with home grown produce and learned a lot throughout the process.

Here's to the next part of our veg growing escapades, I've got my fingers crossed for our fledgling tomato cuttings...

I'll leave you with Joanna Newsom's song, 81, as it's been rattling around in my head the last month or so and some of the gardening lyrics feel quite relevant :)

"I found a little plot of land in the garden of Eden...I tilled it with my two hands and called it my very own..."

19 Oct 2015

Having a go at weaving

A couple of weeks ago  I treated myself to the most recent issue of Mollie Makes (a two and a half hour train to Manchester was the perfect excuse) aaaand it included a mini loom kit! I've been meaning to try weaving for some time, since seeing Artemis's stuff. So this weekend I had a go and this is my first attempt. It's not great, the tension is rubbish and for some reason I've managed to leave little gaps here and there but whatevs it was fun to do, I just need more practice I reckon :)

As well as trying my hand at weaving, this was another great weekend because: francao manca dinner + many many glasses of red wine with the girls on Friday night; pancakes; a visit to the Mall Gallery to see my dad's painting which is currently in an exhibition there; dropping in on Forbidden Planet (always a joy); knitting; gardening; and watching a lot of 30 Rock. Hope you had a good one too!

16 Oct 2015

Reading & Seeing (& Listening) 26

I'm not sure why but I've ended up reading a lot of rather grim books of late but if you've got any light-hearted/upbeat books to recommend do let me know, I am definitely going to need them after The Road.

Northern Lights
I had nothing to read on the morning of moriarty's death, having finished the last bad man the day before, and I knew that I was going to need one hell of a good book to distract me from sad thoughts during my commute that morning. I instinctively reached for Northern Lights, subconsciously because of all the daemons, but mostly because I love it and I needed something exciting yet familiar. I've lost count how many times I've read it but there'll be many more reads of this in future I'm sure.

After Dark
I picked up this and The Collector whilst Mitch and I were in Brighton (there's a great second hand book stall in the covered market). At the risk of causing outrage, I don't quite get what all the fuss is about with Murakami. I feel I can say that now that I've read a couple of his books. I can't get to grip with (or care about) his characters. After Dark follows a bunch of interconnected characters through the hours small hours of one night. It started out as vaguely intriguing and pretty creepy and then...absolutely nothing happens. I'm probably missing all the metaphors and the deep and profound imagery. Or something. But that's just it, I'm missing it. And while I'm at it, I didn't like the weird third person narrative voice in this either, particularly the way it described everything as if it was reading it from the camera directions on a film script, it just felt kind of lazy.

The Collector was disturbing, and if I'm honest, I had hoped for a less bleak ending. It's about a socially challenged individual, who, having come into a lot of money, decides to abduct Miranda, a very pretty art student that he's been stalking for some time. As I said, it's a bit unsettling but I found it interesting how the two behave towards each other given the circumstances. Miranda isn't the most likeable of characters and it's her narrative that shows her in not so great a light. The duel narrative is a very clever tool. Still grim though.

How to be both
Blook club's pick, although, fortuitously, I was already half way through it when this was decided! Half the book is told from the perspective of a 15th century painter, the other half concerns the thoughts and feelings of a modern day 16 year old girl whose mother has recently died. I don't want to say too much as I'll ruin it but I really liked this - the style of writing, the clever connectedness, the fact that it made me think about the assumptions people make (me as a reader but also in wider society).

God's Own Country
At the centre of this tale is Sam, a socially awkward (seeing a pattern?) farmers son who befriends the teenage daughter of the new family that's moved to the farm next to his. There's a lot of comparisons to be drawn between this and The Collector to be honest but this one wasn't as well conceived. In its defence, it kept me interested and I sped through, mostly because I wanted to make sure the ending wasn't too devastating. (spoiler: it's not, thank god).

The Road
I've not seen the film but plenty of people who had, warned me against reading it. For those not in the know, the story follows a father and son as the travel south along 'the road' amid a backdrop of a ruined world (most probably because of nuclear war). There's little food, sunlight or warmth and as for the other v.few people they encounter it's so grim I cannot repeat what I read. With all the SF I read, particularly when it comes to dystopian futures, I am always fascinated by people and how they 'cope' with disaster. Some truly horrendous scenarios are suggested in this book but despite that there are moments of light - the father-son relationship for a start and the ending is, relatively speaking, not as soul crushing as I'd thought it'd be. The future world is so vividly painted and it often made me think 'what would I do in this situation' as well as wondering whether to buy more canned goods (you know, just in case). Yes it's gruelling but I'm glad I've read it.

The Martian
So matt Damon is the poor old sod that his astronaut buddies leave on Mars because they think he's dead, only he's not! He's figuring out how to stay alive in a tres hostile environment - creating water, digging up radioactive stuff, tinkering with satellites and growing potatoes in his own poo. I read this last year (I think) and, as predicted, this made a waaay better film than a book. For starters all that complicated chat about maths and chemistry is condensed into a delightful montage (complete with uplifting music) also the characters have some life to them (largely thanks to an awesome cast - Sean Bean, Kirstin Wiig, Donald Glover! YES!) and Matt Damon is likeable as Mark Watney (I found him quite irritating in the book), you're certainly rooting for him from the start.  Sure, it's no Interstellar or Gravity (it doesn't really have the weight, pace or suspense) but the special effects are great and, even though I knew everything that was going to happen, it had me gripped. Thanks Ridley Scott you did this tale a favour.

Meanwhile in the Future
I'm a bit behind the times with podcasts, truth be told I was baffled as to when people had the time to listen to them what with watching TV, reading books, writing blogs, making time for hobbies, maintaining friendships and having a job. But I found it, I found the time to listen (just before bed) and Meanwhile in the Future has fast become one of my favourites. Each week someone suggests an idea for a future (one where you have to apply to travel by plane for example, or where women no longer give birth and babies develop in external wombs, or one where the earth has two moons - you get the idea) and then experts discuss what that future would actually be like. It's super interesting and they're normally only about 15 minutes long. Definitely worth a listen if SF is your bag or if you like to over think things :)

12 Oct 2015


Last weekend was a bloody good one because: I had dinner at a friends (there was much wine, putting-the-world-to-rights talk and view gazing from her building's amazing roof terrace); mitch and I spent an impromptu day and evening in Peckham (firstly at the crafty fox market and then quite a few hours at The Hope drinking tasty beer and eating delicious Venezuelan street food); making a fun breakfast; and lazy about doing lots a crafty stuff (continuing with my jumper, trying my hand at weaving and making my #fortheloveof green heart given out by the awesome Craftivist Collective in support of the climate coalition - I picked avocados, obvs).

So yeah, bloody great. How about you, get up to much at the weekend? 

5 Oct 2015

Seven go to Yorkshire

Last month, seven of us rented a lovely converted barn in the pretty village of Settle, right on the edge of the Yorkshire dales. On the cards: a bit of walking, a bit of boozing. Compared to some of our previous breaks, our Yorkshire walks were pretty gentle (not that I'm complaining). Starting off from Settle we took a detour through the most picturesque village I've ever seen, before cutting through the fields and onto the limestone pavements. We looped back to the path and took a very scenic route back to Settle where we descended on the pub for some local ale. Afterwards, we stumbled back to the barn to eat ALL the pizza in Yorkshire, drink all the wine and play a lot of games, one of which I've got to share with you as it had us laughing till our stomachs hurt.

We've been calling it the animal game but who knows what it's actually called. Each player writes down the name of an animal, folds the paper in half and puts it into a pot. Someone starts by picking out, at random, one of the animals and saying it out loud to the group. Everyone has 7 seconds to draw the animal (or do the best job they can) and the person who called the animal picks their favourite and the worst drawing and they are set aside for later. The beauty of this game is that 7 seconds isn't long at all so it doesn't matter if you're a good drawer or not, you just need to get the basic shape and some distinguishing features in. (Of course the real joy is if someone picks an animal not everyone has heard of: case in point, my friend's narwharl :) haha!) The game continues with each player getting to pick an animal out of the pot. At the end when you've got all the favourites and all the worst ones, the group votes an overall winner and an overall loser. I'm not sure why (probably something to do with the booze...) we've taken to drawing the losing illustration on whoever drew it. Anyhoo, it's a great game, I'd love to know if any of you have played it before (and if it's got an actual name)!

The next day we were all a little worse for wear. After a big fry up we headed off to Malham for a very pleasant walk to Janet's Foss, a pretty little waterfall and pool nestled amongst the trees. The lads decided to have swim which was brave given that the water was icy and also because a fair-sized walking group was looking on - one of whom had binoculars!

We rounded off our Yorkshire trip with some pub lunch (pie, followed by sticky toffee pudding = heaven) before the long old drive back to London. The Yorkshire dales, as I hope the pictures show, was stunning, I only wish we'd had more time there!

3 Oct 2015

September was...here, there and everywhere

If any word could sum up last month it would be: travel, or maybe: journey. I've been all over the shop, mostly for work but also for fun. I've been very fortunate in my job at the moment, getting out and about, and even travelling up and down the country, talking to people about the charity. They are long and tiring days but definitely worth it :) Highlights were most definitely my days in Bristol and Manchester. I just wish I'd had more time to myself to do more exploring, particularly in Manchester, I'd never been before and I was liking the vibes there a lot.

As well as work travel, I manged a holiday in Slovakia and a weekend in Yorkshire (pictures to come) two v.excellent short breaks to give me that space I need from London in order to appreciate it more when I return. 

Pushing that journey metaphor to its absolute limits, the flat debacle rumbles on (still no sign of a concrete destination) and our veg growing attempts are facing delays what with these chilly evenings and early sunsets. Still, we're ploughing on and we'll just have to see what happens - the v.sunny and warm-ish week has been great, I'm hoping it lasts a little longer.

And here we are at October and it's well established autumnal-ness - yay for knitted jumpers, fallen leaves, conkers, pub garden heaters, boots, soups and scarves!
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