27 May 2010

Falling for London: Light show.

Light and shadow, fish and chips, tulips and turpentine, all came together in Morning Lane E9 to make a very magical evening back in March. A nite I won't soon forget. Windows and whitewash by Phillipa Johnson.

25 May 2010

Leader of the wolves.

Outside my late grandmother's house stood a big Camellia bush - it was more like a tree really, getting bigger every year. And when you're a kid everything seems bigger, right? Every Spring before the flowers came out we hung Easter eggs from the small branches. I've got some happy memories with Camellias to say the least, and lots of family photos (tho sadly none here with me now to share).
So when I spotted a small bush in my back garden in London I enjoyed several weeks of fresh Camellia's in my room. It really made me miss my Nana - I've been thinking a lot recently about my family tree and how not all branches have been accounted for. Sadly the house is being sold and I may never get to go back inside. I'm left with a lifetime of memories, a perfect-to-me image of the house from top to bottom. And when I get back home I will be re-united with several of my Nana's prize possessions, which I will treasure forever. Here's hoping the bush will still be there for a few sneak snips every now and then . . .
*Interestingly, according to wiki, Camellia comes from a tribe in Antartica called the "hensheig" they were known to be part of a wolf pack. The wife of the tribe was named Camellia which means leader of the wolves.

18 May 2010

Playing favourites.

The past six months have been a bit of a nitemare for me. Lots of troubles and ups and downs, worries about where I will end up and what will happen. I don't really want to go into it too much on here but let's just say, I might soon be unemployed and moving back to the US. I've held on hoping that something would happen in London, but it doesn't look good. It won't be the worst thing that's ever happened, but it's definitely not what I want to do. I will go knowing I've done everything I could have done, and I will take with me some fabulous memories of the past two-and-a-half years here.

That being said, Golden Lane (Designed in 1952 by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon - who later designed the Barbican - and completed 1962) is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the office, and it's a sight that never ceases to amaze me. It's the perfect lunchtime hideaway, especially if you're like me and fascinated by housing estates. . . the designs, the names of the blocks. Great Arthur House towers over the rest of the blocks, its brilliant yellows captivating in sun and in shade.

I've heard plenty of horror stories about people being told to leave the country within 24 hours, which right now would be my worst nitemare. If that ever happened I would prolly have to leave a lot of treasures behind. And recently I've started thinking, if I could only take one suitcase, what would be in it? This ensemble would be one of the first things to go in, rag curls and all. My friend Ashby sent me a lil' care package from back home and inside was this polka dot Judy Bond blouse, complete with its original tags from an Asheboro department store. After a soak I have been wearing it at least once (!) a week. The skirt I found at a vintage shop in Brick Lane - does anybody remember 'Vintage Heaven'? - One of those shops where things are brought in by the truckload, and you had to really comb the racks to find a treat. At their closing down sale I found this beautiful homemade skirt, which I've also been spending a lot of time in. And let's not forget my favourite light-weight jacket, a workwear smock with peter pan collar and rich layers of history, from the first Angels sale. These would all prolly go into the suitcase first thing.

Speaking of suitcases, I'd better get back to packing. Cornwall here I come . . . !

Get-away.

*
I'm having a (much needed) long weekend away this weekend in Falmouth, Cornwall. Any recommendations for a first-timer to Cornwall - good eats, site-seeing and (window)shopping - will be greatly appreciated. Fingers-crossed this warm weather burst stays put.

16 May 2010

Good As New.

When I find myself missing 'home' I oftentimes find myself in vintage shops, which really only makes me more homesick. . . I end up looking at things which can be way out of my price range and leave wishing I could transport myself back to the North Carolina thrift shops to really feel like I was walking away with a deal!
I've spent quite a lot of time in South London over these past few months, and found two great shops I wanted to pass along to you. 'Cenci' in West Norwood was also previously in Covent Garden. No photos are allowed inside the shop, but just imagine floor-to-ceiling stacks of letter sweaters and Breton sweaters in every colour and every size. You will need to give yourself several hours just to take it all in. There are also several charity shops along the high street which will keep you busy, and be sure to check out the cemetery behind the library - perfect for a summer's day picnic.
If you are ever in Brockley grab a coffee from Brown's of Brockley and head to 'Good As New / Birds Dress Agency' in Malpas Road. I was drooling over the fur-baubled bag in the window (up top here) and after several weeks walked by at a time when they were open, only to fall in love with a tartan cape. The cape, which I've yet to successfully photograph in all its magic, was hands-down my top purchase of Winter 2009, and has won me many a compliment. With the mood-swings of London weather perhaps we will have one more outing this year yet!
I don't know much about the shop, aside from there are some real heart-breakers inside, but I hope to make a further investigation very soon! With such a sweet name and 'established 1830' there's bound to be a story there, right? If anyone out there knows. . . or if you can recommend other great vintage stops in South London please do.

11 May 2010

Falling for London: The great escape.

I can't remember how I first learnt about Crystal Palace, but ever since I found out it existed, I've wanted to go and see the dinosaurs. After two years in London I decided one brisk sunny day in March it was about time.
The world's first prehistoric sculptures were designed by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins under the guidance of Professor Richard Owen, who invented the word 'dinosaur'. They were based on contemporary ideas of what dinosaurs looked like. Hawkins held a New Year's Eve dinner party inside the Iguanodon at which famous scientists ate pigeon pie. The park opened in 1854 when the Crystal Palace was re-erected there after the 'Great Exhibition of the Works of the Industry of all Nations', conceived by Prince Albert (1819-1861) and held at Hyde Park, London in 1851. The dinosaurs were refurbished in the early 21st century. - From Science & Society
Owen and Hawkins set out to create 33 life-size replicas of pre-reptile animals, a time trail and a lead mine. The models represented not only dinosaurs but also amphibians, crocodiles, marine reptiles, flying reptiles and early mammals. They used fossils from the Natural History Museum and compared them with the bones of modern animals. It is said that this was the first time a 'controversial' theory proclaimed that such animals did exist millions of years ago, pre-dating Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859).
Reading about the site beforehand and seeing the dinosaurs from a passing train a few times, I imagined my very own Jurassic Park in which I would come face-to-face with the creatures. I'm not ashamed to admit I even daydreamed (extensively!) about having my Christmas portrait taken atop a dinosaur, with flowing curls and a miniature tree in hand. Upon arrival I realised the closest I could get was with my zoom! Though I wasn't as lucky as the kids in 'Our Mother's House' (1967, clip below) to ride through the magical world in a boat, I grinned ear-to-ear nonetheless.
You could spend the better part of a day at Crystal Palace - once you've seen the dinosaurs you can follow the paths around the grounds to the stadium, the sports complex, the ruins and the maze (!).
The maze marks the spot where, in 1909, a small group of girls dared to attend a Scouts' Rally and approach Sir Robert Baden-Powell, requesting that he set up ‘something for the girls’. Baden-Powell founded the Girl Guides a few months later.
I want to make another trip to Crystal Palace once the leaves of the maze have grown in. It was actually a really difficult and frustrating maze, but we made it in the end.
The 990,000 square foot Crystal Palace itself was built in Hyde Park as a place for more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world to gather and celebrate the progress of the industrial revolution and the might of the empire.
The 'Palace', originally designed by Joseph Paxton, who had been gardener at Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, was subsequently relocated to Sydenham, to the area now known as Crystal Palace. Many of the sculptures and flourishes were relocated with it, and whilst the palace itself burned down in 1936, some of the other elements remain and the Sphinx still stands guard at the entrance, keeping watch to check who accesses the empty terraces where a palace once stood.
So I didn't have my shot with the dinosaurs, but I was able to lie atop the Sphinx for a short rest -- dork alert.
Overlooking the grounds you can only begin to imagine all the wonderful, magical things that went on in the Palace. From bee-keepers to balloon enthusiasts and vegetable champions, there were surely lots of smiles. It's a great escape.
All historic images are from the Science and Society Picture Library. You can see full captions on my flickr. And p.s., thank you so much for your sweet comments on my last post - it means the world to me.

04 May 2010

Window shopping.

I do miss blogging but my head is still a bit all over the place, so I'm going to ease back in gently. With apprehension of a cross-Atlantic move (short of a miracle) I'm selling off some things from the vault, a few old stand-by's, others that could've almost been. Check back every few days or so for more.
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