Tuesday, 24 December 2013

christmas reading

I am on my way to Edinburgh, where I plan to spend Christmas by the fireside with family and friends and puppies, eating and drinking and making merry. I'll make sure to leave time to read Christmas Pudding in the evenings, too. Mitford's sister, Jessica, recalled that during the writing of Christmas Pudding, Nancy spent months 'giggling helplessly by the drawing room fire, her curiously triangular green eyes flashing with amusement, while her thin pen flew along the lines of a child's exercise book'... A frolicsome Christmas read.

two pears

For D.'s mother's Christmas present this year, I painted a pair of pears.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

art on a thursday

Self-portrait by Duncan Grant.

Duncan James Corrowr Grant (1885-1978) was a British painter and designer of textiles, pottery and theatre sets and costumes. He was a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group and is best known for his painting style, which was strongly influenced by the intense colours of French Post-Impressionism.

pottery class

Last night I enjoyed my final session of amateur winter pottery - I've been going to a class every Wednesday for the past three weeks underneath a couple of railway arches in deepest, darkest Dalston. Turning Earth is a newly opened studio, run by potters Tallie Maughan and Stuart Carey and is open for potters working at all levels, who can come and go as they please. I was a complete beginner, and have had a go at throwing clay on a wheel, making coil pots and glazing. I've ended up with a reasonably handsome (but utterly imperfect and not entirely round) plate, which I spent last night painting with a leaf pattern.

The underside of the half-finished plate... Alas, I don't think I'm a natural potter. Unfortunately I really don't have the patience. It's been a very therapeutic way to spend a few weekday evenings, however! I recommend!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

wish list: muted green

Richard James Quilted Harris Tweed Bomber Jacket.
Marc by Marc Jacobs Full-Grain Leather Wash Bag.
Etro Plaid Cashmere Scarf.
Turnbull & Asser Taz Polka-Dot Silk Bow Tie.
Globe-Trotter Special Edition 21" Carry-On Case.
J.Crew Bird-Print Cotton Pocket Square.

All from MR PORTER.

a saturday in wiltshire

We headed west to Wiltshire on Saturday, where we stopped by the Compton Marbling Fairs - little Christmas craft fairs held in farmyard barns just outside Tisbury. We'd come to see our friend Edward, whose parents live nearby.

We had lunch afterwards at the incredibly special Pythouse Kitchen Garden - the cafe is situated in an old potting shed overlooking a glorious walled garden.

A wonderful starter - heritage carrots with goat's cheese and fig puree.

A brilliantly compact and delicious menu!

Charlotte looking marvellous in the vegetable patch post-lunch. Incredible light.

Just as the sun was setting, we drove through this monumental arch on the Fonthill Estate. The gateway originally lead to Fonthill Abbey, a large Gothic revival country house, of which little remains. We stayed just up the road from here, at the Beckford Arms, back in May. Another great spot for lunch!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


I spoke to Vancouver-based magazine Freckled about my graduate Saint Martins menswear collection and designing outfits for Patrick Wolf, among other things. Find the interview here (pages 111-114).

winter knitwear

Grey lambswool and a chartreuse polo-neck.

Fair Isle in cool winter colours.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Our first sourdough loaf, made with our very own two-week-old starter. Just the ticket for a crisp, cold November Sunday breakfast - sliced thickly and toasted.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

lewes bonfire

This November 5th we travelled to Lewes in East Sussex for a night of dark autumn mischief. We'd come for the Lewes Bonfire - the UK's largest and most famous Guy Fawkes Night celebration. Setting off from London in the afternoon, we arrived a few hours later in the charming village of Firle, which I'd wanted to visit for some time due to owning a copy of this great book. Virginia Woolf rented a house in Firle and in 1916 her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell, moved to the nearby Charleston Farmhouse, which went on to become a regular haunt of the Bloomsbury Group (also on my list of places to visit). We'd taken a room for the night at The Ram Inn (the Bloomsbury room in fact) - an ancient pub set in the heart of Firle, whose website explains how artists, walkers, writers, farmers, farriers and vicars can all be found drinking at The Ram's bar... How excellent! We had to drop off our things and head straight off to Lewes, which unfortunately meant that there was to be no locally sourced Sussex pub supper in store for us, a shame because The Ram has become known for its good food... But we had fire to be dealing with.

Lewes was incredibly busy (30,000 revellers turned up for the festivities) and there was definitely an air of magic and mischief about the place. The event not only marks the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, but also commemorates the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs from the town burnt at the stake for their faith during the Marian Persecutions. Six bonfire societies put on five separate parades and firework displays. We watched on with awe as local residents took to the streets with burning torches, crosses and banners. Huge effigies were drawn through the narrow streets as brass bands played and fireworks burst above the River Ouse. I don't think I've ever seen so much fire and smoke. After several processions, each society marches to its own fire site on the edge of the town, where the effigies are burnt. We followed the raucous crowd and found our way to one of these sites. An enormous bonfire and firework display rounded off proceedings... Things were blazing, exploding, fizzing and whizzing left, right and centre by this point. It was nearing midnight and we were quite cold and tired, but luckily our room at The Ram was waiting for us just down the road. Unfortunately a very early start meant that breakfast (as well as the previous night's dinner) was also off the menu! (Although I must add that we were very kindly equipped with bags of porridge and fruit for our journey home.) All in all, it was worth the trek: a wild night!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

plain english

When I get to being just a little bit older, what goods will I pine for? A fast car? A swimming pool? A TV that pops out of the end of your bed? No, obviously not. I will pine for a bespoke, handcrafted kitchen from Plain English. Can anything get as calm inducing (and handsome) as a really good kitchen? I don't think so! Above is the Plain English colour collection for 2013 (with a few omissions). The hues all have completely fabulous names, from Boiled Dishcloth and Rice Pudding to Rusty Nail and Army Camp. I'm a particular fan of those two greens and that brilliant rusty red. Alas, for now, I can only dream...

Monday, 4 November 2013

wish list: mountain mohair

Oh Carven, you've done it again, haven't you? When I first saw this jumper in Liberty a couple of weeks ago, I had to have a brief sit down. All other jumpers that I've ever known were instantly erased from my memory. It's Carven. It's mohair. It's a roll neck. It's blue and camel and patterned. It's the only thing I want to be wearing on Christmas Day/every day ever again. It's basically knitwear to end all knitwear. It's also unlikely to be mine unless I want to part with *wipes away tears, consults bank account* nearly 400 euros. The Carven Mountain Knit Pullover. Crumbs, isn't it just the jolliest thing you've ever seen?

we could grow up 2gether

I met the NYC-based photographer Kwannam Chu of we could grow up2gether for coffee in Bloomsbury one bright, early morning in late September. I gave him a quick tour of the area - pointing out my favourite streets and shops and what have you. I've been following Kwannam's brilliant blog for years; his colourful taste in everything often reminds me of my own... Read his blog post here. Good to meet you, Kwannam!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Adapted from Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun:

Hallowe’en developed from the Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in'), which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. For the Celts, Samhain was the beginning of the year and a time to acknowledge the beginning and the ending of all things. As they looked to nature, they saw the falling of the leaves from the trees, the coming of winter and death. It was a time when they turned to their Gods and Goddesses seeking to understand the turning cycles of life and death. Here, on the threshold of the cold barren winter months, it was also a time of feasting and celebration as the weakest animals were culled to preserve valuable foodstuffs, and provide food to last until the following spring... For the Celts, Samhain was a time when the gates between this world and next were open. It was a time of communion with the spirits of the dead, who, like the wild autumnal winds, were free to roam the earth. At Samhain, the Celts called upon their ancestors, who might bring warnings and guidance to help in the year to come.

Monday, 28 October 2013

st jude and a banana cake

I spent most of this past weekend at home, curtains closed, candles lit, trying my best to avoid the onslaught of stormy St Jude. I based my entire weekend around cooking and eating (as I do every weekend, naturally...) - on Friday I paid a visit to the Edition Hotel for cocktails and Lima for supper. On Saturday I baked a great cake (Nigel's banana and chocolate loaf), made a squash soup and a butter bean and chorizo stew. Then I roasted a chicken with lots of garlic and thyme for supper. I also got on with preparing a sourdough starter - something I've been meaning to do for months. It's growing in size in the back of the cupboard for the moment. By next Saturday, we'll finally be able to begin making our own sourdough loaves. Rejoice! I also somehow managed to fit in Sunday lunch with friends at St John's Tavern. It's literally the ultimate North London autumnal lunch spot (Scotch eggs, dauphinoise, red wine galore). Oh, and I even had leftover cake to take into work today...

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Danish songstress Agnes Obel's new record Aventine is beautiful, quiet, enchanting, melancholic. A perfect autumn album. Listen to it alone.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

london: a cabinet of curiosities

Do make time to pop into Ben's shop (recently renamed Pentreath & Hall, due to Creative Director Bridie Hall becoming co-owner with Ben), where the pair's Cabinet of Curiosities, their annual selling exhibition, is running until next Saturday. This year the exhibition has a London theme (you'll find old maps next to bottles of HP Sauce) and has been curated in collaboration with the rather fab Bible of British Taste. The shop hosted a little party on Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening.

Bridie's (female) tortoise Winston made an appearance.

In fact she was the star of the evening, spending the whole night acclimatising to her absolutely incredible but totally bonkers new mansion home, designed and made by the artist Ed Kluz. I want to move in myself.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

wish list: ancient industries

Ancient Industries: a beautifully curated selection of products for sale, carefully chosen by art director and book cover designer Megan Wilson. Originally from New York, Megan grew up in England in the 1970s (she studied at Saint Martins, as I did). With her aesthetics-and-quality-obsessed mother in charge, the family bought only traditionally made and well-designed clothing and items for the home. When Megan moved back to the United States, her penchant for quality and tradition led her to continue the pilgrimages of her youth to the markets of Europe, where items made by the 'ancient industries', like Austrian enamelware makers and Menorcan cobblers, still existed. Megan started selling these wares to her friends, then friends of friends, before setting up her business.

The result of Megan's rigorous sourcing and hard work? A really great little shop, full of practical things that you want to buy and use. I'm particularly fond of this Porridge Pot, these Winter Candlesticks and these English Beeswax Candles. I mean it's essentially everything one needs in preparation for battening down the hatches come deep winter: candlelight and porridge.

Take a look at Megan's brilliant blog here. Then view her fabulous book cover designs here. (Oddly enough, she has designed some of my favourite covers, including a great one for Love in a Cold Climate, which I read and fell in love with earlier this year - see here.) Oh and whilst you're at it, read an inspiring interview with Megan here. Can you tell I'm a big fan?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

the grand budapest hotel

Wes has done it again - how good does this look? Coming to cinemas in 2014.

the ethicurean

Last weekend, I took a trip to my good friend Rowena's family home in Bath.

It was Rowena's Birthday, so to celebrate, we drove with her mother and sister an hour or so out of the city in the autumn darkness, deeper into the West Country to The Ethicurean - a kitchen garden restaurant overlooking the Mendip Hills in Somerset. Situated in Barley Wood Walled Garden's former glasshouse, The Ethicurean serves up delicious food using produce grown and sourced locally. (It was named Best Ethical Restaurant in the 2011 Observer Food Monthly awards and won a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand earlier this year.) I ate Welsh rarebit (quite possibly the best thing I've ever tasted), pork belly and a chocolate and stout pudding. It was a jolly supper; I can't wait to return. On another note, I interviewed the team behind The Ethicurean for Toast Travels back in July - have a read here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

an autumn derby

I've just ordered these. Look at that sole. Perfect for wading through October puddles and leaves. Finton Derby Shoes from Grenson.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

a feast by the sea

We took a train to the coast on Saturday afternoon, sleeping most of the way. Waking up in Broadstairs, we found our way to our hotel - pastel pink with dark windows, overlooking a golden beach.

We'd come to the Kent coast for dinner. East London restaurant Bistrotheque had decamped to the seaside for the weekend, commandeering Belvedere Place, a delightful hotel set back a few streets from the water.

We ate oysters, local fish stew and floating islands. Drank a lot of wine too.

I'd really recommend Belvidere Place. It's owner Jilly was the perfect host.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs.

On Sunday, with sore heads, we headed to nearby Margate and paid a visit to Turner Contemporary; a beautifully brutal building, all grey steel and concrete, with incredible views out to the North Sea.

The Turner and Constable exhibition is most definitely worth seeing. Highly inspiring. Great poster too... I love the lemon yellow text on those soft blues.

We wandered around Margate for an hour or two and came across something most strange: the Shell Grotto, an ornate subterranean passageway and grade I listed building. Its walls are covered in mosaics created entirely of seashells. 4.6 million, in fact! It was discovered in 1835 but its age remains unknown... After emerging from the darkness of the grotto (a little dazed and confused), we bought some hazelnut ice cream and took a walk along the harbour before jumping on a train back to London.

The British seaside. So good for the soul.