Thursday, 30 July 2015

to the lighthouse: 2015

I arrived in Devon at midday on Saturday, after a long (but very scenic) train journey from Paddington. I'd come for our annual trip, when various members of my family meet up on the West Country coast. (See previous blog entries here and here!) We always stay in the same little town, Ilfracombe, and have been staying in the same ice cream pink house on the town's harbour for a few years now. It's always a blissful time, because I get to spend a few days not thinking about very much, apart from what to have for lunch perhaps, or which hill to climb next. It's a lovely, precious time, spent in the same way every year - catching up with siblings, cousins and aunts, reading, walking and basking in the joys of the English seaside in summer.

The view of the harbour from my bedroom window. Waking up to the sound of seagulls screeching and boats bobbing around in the shallow water is just wonderful. My favourite way to wake up.

Saturday lunchtime involved crab sandwiches and ginger beer. For dinner we headed over to the place Damien Hirst owns on the harbour. The artist lives nearby, so has a few connections with the town - shops and restaurants and so on. The Quay is very lovely and elegant - all white walls and crisp tablecloths - with a huge, arched window overlooking the glistening sea, which makes you feel as if you're dining on a galleon, I always think. We all woke up, not to the sound of seagulls on Sunday morning, but heavy rain. It carried on pouring for the rest of the day unfortunately, so I spent some time indoors, drawing and thinking. I made supper for everyone later on and afterwards we sat outside the front of the house, wrapped in blankets and telling stories by candlelight.

On Monday the weather seemed to be improving, so we took off to Lynmouth, a coastal village we like to visit every year. To reach Lynmouth's charming neighbour Lynton (which lies at the top of a gorge some 500 feet above), you take the Victorian water powered cliff railway up the hillside. We walked through Lynton and over to the Valley of the Rocks - a magical place of rock, stone and sea. The poet Robert Southey was a visitor in August 1799 and described the place as 'covered with huge stones... the very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reeling upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge terrific mass'.

We stumbled upon a very funny hotel en route back to Lynton. Following ivy-covered signs for a 'country house' and 'fern garden', we descended down a long path and came across the Villa Spaldi, which hugs the cliffside high above the sea. We were the only ones around, which was pretty eerie, but there was something thoroughly intriguing about the place. I peeked through the hotel's dusty windows and saw fires lit, obelisks and urns littering mantelpieces, threadbare carpets and hundreds of old books lining the walls. All very Edwardian I suppose. The smell of woodsmoke hung heavy in the air. It felt very much as if we'd travelled back in time and were visiting an old professor for tea. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sprang to mind. We scoffed scones with cream and jam on the hotel's terrace and disappeared before the rain set in again.

I bought this old Union Jack in a junk shop in Lynton for twelve English pounds, which I took to hanging from the kitchen window. I love an old flag. When I get a London studio, I'll hang this one above my desk, I reckon.

Tuesday was spent in and around Ilfracombe - visiting the lighthouse (also a tiny chapel), messing around on the harbour beach, eating fish and chips and ice cream. And then, before I knew it, I found myself back on a train with a packed lunch and a heavy heart, sad to be leaving so soon. Alas. Until next year, Devon!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

in the press... british vogue august 2015 and lonny 07/07/2015

My White Tiger Cushion makes an appearance in the August issue of British Vogue.

Talking interiors, inspirations and Instagram with Lonny magazine. Read the full article here.

Monday, 6 July 2015

summer june

D.'s mum got married in Edinburgh on the last Saturday in May; it was a splendid day. Here's D. leaving the family home in full Scot regalia. My favourite outfit!

A quick sketch on a napkin on the train back from the north.

Picasso's beloved ceramics on display at Sotheby's on New Bond Street. We went for the opening of the Impressionist & Modern Art sale - I wanted a lot of things.

I've had a bunch of postcards printed with a drawing on one side. Buy a cushion and you'll find one or two in with your order.

A new drawing: Too Early for Oysters.

Gloriously hot pink walls at the RA's Summer Exhibition.

I spent a rainy Sunday morning poring over my old scrapbooks.

And a new painting: Two Olives, Please.

A weekday summer supper: I grilled a couple of these rainbow trout with lots of lemon and parsley and served them with piles of salty samphire.

Raiding old boxes of photographs at my parent's house. Clearly I've always been a fan of colour blocking.

My grandparents, mum, uncle and aunts in Devon in the 1970s.

A sketch.

D. keeping cool during the weekend heat. Pink and red, an excellent combination.

Outdoor drawing club.

We had friends over for a long, happy supper last Saturday and feasted on crab, tomatoes, peaches and grilled asparagus. Lots of mint, basil and chilli - all those delicious flavours of a hot summer.

At home with a vase of huge, gaudy sunflowers. Perfect.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

no no no

I'm extremely excited about Beirut's new record (their first in four years), No No No, which is due for release in early September. Listen to the title track below. It's all brass flourishes and skittering percussion - very jaunty.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

two summer weekends

We've had a couple of extremely fun weekends recently, I must admit. At the end of May, D. and I spent two nights in the Basque Country celebrating our chef friend James's wedding. Arriving in Bilbao early on a Friday morning, we headed straight to the Guggenheim. We couldn't fail to be impressed by the smooth curves of the building glimmering in the early morning Spanish sun.

Excited about giving Basque food a whirl, we set off in search of lunch. James had told us about an excellent nearby restaurant months ago, serving incredible local food cooked on a firewood grill. He also advised us to book well in advance. We forgot all about this of course and simply turned up at 1pm with hungry stomachs and hopeful smiles. Luckily we were given a table in a corner of the old farmhouse building in which the restaurant is housed. The place is called Asador Etxebarri, and it's as difficult to pronounce as it is to locate among the mountains.

Mega prawns! The best in my life perhaps. Too delicious.

We enjoyed fifteen good courses over several hours and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the Basque countryside - stopping off by rivers, laying down in fields, that sort of thing. We'd had quite a bit of wine.

The wedding itself took place on Saturday in the charming fishing village of Getaria, about an hour or so from Bilbao. We spent a bit of time exploring the town beforehand - a fiesta was taking place - kids were lining the streets playing accordions and recorders whilst grandparents sat in plastic chairs in front of the shops selling ice cream and local wine. It was all very lovely. The wedding was a total blast and lasted from noon until 2am. Lots of dancing and gin and tortilla on sticks.

Feeling a little worse for wear on Sunday morning, D. and I headed down to the beach first thing, knowing that a healthy blast of seawater would probably help to mend our heads. I very much wanted to rent a bright yellow pedalo. We took one out - D. splashed around in the water and I lounged about on board. In the afternoon we met the rest of the wedding party for pintxos (Basque tapas) and ice cream, and were back in our beds in London by 9pm, well fed and exhausted after a delightful weekend.

The following weekend, I flew out to meet D., our friend Charlotte and her sister in the south of France. D. and Charlotte had been in situ for a week already, but (sadly) I was only staying for a single night. We took the ferry across the bay to St Tropez for lunch - giant artichokes and steak tartare. The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming in turquoise waters and dozing on the beach. It was a perfect day.

The fabulously bright red exterior of Sénéquier in St Tropez. (Flashbacks to our trip in 2012!)

Charlotte by the marina at dusk, looking very beautiful.

On Sunday we drove east to the Medieval town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. We'd come to check out La Colombe d'Or and make a booking for supper. I've never loved a hotel or restaurant's vibe more, I don't think. The whole place was just... sublime.

Post-lunch ice cream, Provence-style.

We tried to pay a visit the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence in the afternoon (built and decorated under a plan devised by Matisse), but it was closed. Such a shame! I managed to sneak a photograph through the gates; this colour scheme of teal, yellow and pink made my eyes pop, in a good way. Happily we managed to make time for a trip to the nearby Fondation Maeght - I enjoyed it very much and bought bundles of old posters which are now all with my framer.

The menu at La Colombe d'Or. I mean, have you ever seen a more fantastic or aesthetically pleasing menu? I'm in love. Unfortunately I had to pack up my things and leave halfway through our supper in order to catch my plane, and a very boring delay meant that I wasn't in bed until 4am, but I can't complain, I'd had another wonderful summer weekend.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

a curious friendship

I'm reading A Curious Friendship: The Story of a Bluestocking and a Bright Young Thing by Anna Thomasson at the moment and it's a real joy. Thomasson's first book is an account of the intense but platonic relationship between the artist Rex Whistler and writer Edith Olivier, set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s.

Stephen Tennant, William Walton, Georgia Sitwell, Zita Jungman, Rex Whistler and Cecil Beaton, Wilsford, 1927.

A Curious Friendship is part dual biography, part social history, part study of the circles within which Olivier and Whistler moved, charting the ebb and flow of their relationship and their interconnected histories.

View of Daye House with Edith Olivier, Standing on the Lawn by Rex Whistler.

I was drawn to the tome (with its handsome pink and gold dust jacket) because I'm a big fan of Whistler's work, and getting to know his story has been utterly fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the description of Whistler's first impression of Stephen Tennant: 'a slender figure with extraordinary beauty, like a more delicate Shelley'. The boys shared a love of fairy tales, mythology and legends containing magic spells, as well as the romance of the English countryside. Oh how I wish I could travel back in time and discuss Pagan rituals and poetry with those two.

Rex photographed by Cecil Beaton on the rocks at Cap Ferrat, 1927.

Only halfway through, so back in I must dive! Do pick up a copy!

Monday, 25 May 2015

beaches, flowers, afternoon naps

We spent last weekend on the north Norfolk coast, staying with twenty or so friends in a charming house a few miles from the sea. We were celebrating a good friend's 30th Birthday and had come for three days of parties and dinners and blustery beach walks. Friday night was a little wild - kimonos, glitter canons, disco ball helmets and painted faces were all involved. Several new cocktails were invented before dawn broke. Earlier in the day I came across these ornaments in a tiny sitting room which didn't really end up getting used, but was actually the nicest room in the house.

D. cooked eggs and bacon for the masses on Saturday morning, saviour that he is, and afterwards we travelled in convoy to Holkham beach. We visited Holkham for the first time a few years ago, and it was good to be back. There really isn't anywhere else like it. I love the way you have to walk through tall trees to get to the beach and when you emerge from the shady pathway, you're faced with a breathtaking expanse of white sand and sky. Most of us set up camp for the afternoon in the sheltered sand dunes, but the braver ones of the group headed straight for the sea. Not me however - I love to hear the roar of the sea, and I like to look at it very much, but I do not like to be in it. What we hadn't realised was that the tide had started creeping in, and very quickly. To get back to our cars we had to wade through a river of waist-height seawater, carrying small dogs and shoes and empty bottles of wine. Too funny.

On Sunday the group split - some of us went for a long lunch and some of us spent the day fishing for crabs from a harbour wall. Later on we played games, lounged on the lawns and explored the gardens. That night we cooked vats of crab linguine (using bought crabs, not caught crabs) and toasted our friend's Birthday by candlelight.

D. and I popped along to the Chelsea Flower Show last Thursday evening. I'd been meaning to visit for years. A slightly strange affair, but also very pleasing. The weather was excellent - patches of the gardens glowed in dappled, golden light. I liked the incredible display of daffodils the most, I think. Bright yellows, soft oranges, milky pinks. And such wonderful names! Pink Pageant! Prom Dance! Ice Wings!

I very much enjoyed the Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden created by Dan Pearson. Intended to capture the essence of Chatsworth, the garden's design drew on influences from the estate's 19th century ornamental trout stream and rockery. Pretty stunning, don't you think?

This afternoon we returned from Edinburgh. A flying weekend visit to catch up with D.'s family. A few lunches, a few early nights. Eurovision, of course. Afternoon naps. That vintage clothing shop that I always like to make a trip to. The excellent Lee Miller and Picasso exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which made me dream about having a studio in the south of France as an old man - white walls and plants everywhere, the scent of the sea and fields of flowers. Paintings and drawings scattered on terracotta tiled floors...

To end with, a snapshot view from the train, somewhere around the English border. Like a faded postcard from the 1970s.