Tuesday, 30 April 2013

month of three milkings*

It is an extraordinary time of the year. Tonight is Walpurgis Night. Tomorrow is the first of May. May Day. Beltane. The first day of summer. Over the next few days, we will celebrate the beginning of the bright half of the year with burning fires, flowers and revelry. The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgisnacht celebrations of the Germanic countries. On this very eve, people will light bonfires, blow whistles and dance across the hills. Witches will meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with their gods. Beltane, the ancient Gaelic festival, will be celebrated with the kindling of huge bonfires too. Historically, Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer - cattle were driven out to their summer pastures and rituals were performed to protect cows, crops and people. The flames, smoke and ash of the bonfires were said to have protective powers. In England, towns and villages will celebrate springtime fertility (of the soil, livestock and people) with Morris dancing on the village green, parades and even more dancing around a decorated Maypole. People will gather flowers, wear green and rise before dawn to wash their faces with dew... This is an ancient time of rebirth, youthfulness and romance, for debauchery, laughter and light.

The following passage is from a description of May Day events in Cornwall in 1881, collected by Robert Hunt in his book Popular Romances of the West of England: The drolls, traditions, and superstitions of old Cornwall.

'The first of May is inaugurated with much uproar. As soon as the clock has told of midnight, a loud blast on tin trumpets proclaims the advent of May. This is long continued. At daybreak, with their 'tintarrems', they proceed to the country, and strip the sycamore-trees (called May-trees) of all their young branches, to make whistles. With these shrill musical instruments they return home. Young men and women devote May-day to junketing and picnics. It was a custom at Penzance, and probably at many other Cornish towns, when the author was a boy, for a number of young people to sit up until twelve o'clock, and then to march round the town with violins and fifes, and summon their friends to the Maying. When all were gathered, they went into the country, and were welcomed at the farmhouses at which they called, with some refreshment in the shape of rum and milk, junket, or something of that sort. They then gathered the 'May', which included the young branches of any tree in blossom or fresh leaf. The branches of the sycamore were especially cut for the purpose of making the 'May-music'. This was done by cutting a circle through the bark to the wood a few inches from the end of the branch. The, bark was wetted and carefully beaten until it was loosened and could be slid off from the wood. The wood was cut angularly at the end, so as to form a mouth-piece, and a slit was made in both the bark and the wood, so that when the bark was replaced a whistle was formed. Prepared with a sufficient number of May whistles, all the party returned to the town, the band playing, whistles blowing, and the young people singing some appropriate song.'

*Month of three milkings is a translation of 'Þrimilci-mōnaþ', the Old English name for the month of May.

Monday, 29 April 2013

serious pleasures

What a delight - this marvellous book arrived in the post this morning; I've been anticipating its arrival for weeks. Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephen Tennant by Philip Hoare documents the life of the brightest of the Bright Young People - a group of young and privileged bohemians who captivated, angered and fascinated the British public during the 20s and 30s. Tennant, a definitive Peter Pan, cultivated a life of glamour and an international circle that included Cecil Beaton and Truman Capote. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford's novel Love in a Cold Climate (which I'm reading and enjoying very much at the moment) along with the inspiration for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's magnum opus Brideshead Revisited (one of my all time favourite books, of course). I am quite fixated with interwar Britain as an historical and cultural period, and tales of the Bright Young People particularly fascinate me. In this book, Philip Hoare's extensive research is backed by excerpts from the subject's correspondence, interviews with survivors of the glittering age and striking photos... I cannot wait to dive in.

Friday, 19 April 2013

wish list: six knitted things

Thoughts: What a charming shade of green. / I really want a Missoni cardigan. I've always wanted a Missoni cardigan. What that family won't do with wool and stripes obviously isn't worth doing. / A great colour combination courtesy of Oliver Spencer and I like the wee navy pocket. / That retro number from Bottega is a tad bonkers/mostly brilliant - it looks a bit like a cartoon piece of clothing, no? / I'm a huge fan of the shawl collar and contrast binding on that Jigsaw blazer and I like how neat and boxy it looks too. / A brave shade of orange from Gant - practically sherbet, I guess you could say. I never liked sherbet, but I like this. Would look great worn underneath aforementioned Jigsaw blazer. Blue with orange: dreamy.

Kolor Panelled Knitted Cotton Blazer from MR PORTER.
Missoni Knitted Cotton-Blend Cardigan from MR PORTER.
Oliver Spencer Block-Colour Cotton Sweater from MR PORTER.
Bottega Veneta Retro Button-through Cardigan from Matches.
Blue Contrast Binding Knit Blazer from Jigsaw.
Gant Rugger Landing Cable-knit Sweater from Matches.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

wish list: olympia le-tan + kitsuné

Oh, how I adore Olympia Le-Tan. I have been a fan of her artisanal book cover clutch bags for quite some time. Yet, I am a boy; I do not think that I could get away with carrying a multicoloured, embroidered clutch bag. More's the pity, because they are all beautiful works of hand-crafted genius. Luckily for me, Miss Le-Tan has created a range of pure wool fox-shaped blazon-badges for the French clothing brand (and music label) Kitsuné (which means fox in Japanese, in case you were wondering). They feature a pin clasp and come in two sizes and a range of striking colours. Sign me up, or rather, pin me down. Available from Kitsuné here. On a related note, how wonderful an illustrator is Olympia's father, Pierre Le-Tan? (Enjoy below.) A talented pair indeed... Take a peek inside Pierre's completely charming apartment and Olympia's acid pink and lime green studio in this article for T Magazine.

club tropicana

Well, we bought a bar. Just look at it. Isn't it the most fabulous thing you've ever seen? It was made in Milan in the 1940s by Paolo Buffa, one of the most lively and prolific Italian architects of the early twentieth century. The cabinet doors are inlaid with malachite (too beautiful) and the mirrored interior glows, rather outrageously, bright pink and canary yellow. Naturally we had to christen the old girl Club Tropicana. Note the pineapple ice bucket on top - this cabinet and that ice bucket were clearly made for each other. A match made in tropical heaven.

Monday, 15 April 2013

wish list: a summertime loafer

Yes they're a tad ostentatious, but I can't help myself, I want them. I'm imagining wearing them in some Italian fishing village on the Amalfi Coast come July or August, in true Italian Gucci style. Campari in hand, hot sun, azure waters... Oh, heaven! Gucci Floral-Print Canvas and Leather Loafers from MR PORTER.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

the weekend in food and drink

Ramen at Tonkotsu in Soho.

Ruth Rogers' classic River Cafe chocolate nemesis: the perfect Sunday afternoon sweet treat. All you need is eggs, butter, sugar and chocolate. Combine, bake for an hour or so, top with crème fraîche and raspberries, serve, devour.

Aperol: bracing and bitter - the taste of an Italian summer (wishful thinking). Inspired by the sunshine (hurrah!), we raced out and picked up a bottle this afternoon. I do love an early evening spritz...

Friday, 12 April 2013

blackbird blackbird

Christ. How did I not know about Blackbird Blackbird? What a dream.

from the vaults: on the beach, in the rain

This is an old one from a couple of years ago. The circus horses were Photoshopped, in case you can't tell. I'm on a beach in north Devon - one of my favourite places on Earth. I embark on a pilgrimage to this rugged strip of West Country coast with my family every summer. At this point of the holiday I was hunting for crabs with my younger siblings on a stoney beach where the tide rises high and the rock pools get filled with murky water and all manner of sea creatures. I love this Acne raincoat for its deep forest green colour. It really is the perfect coat for stomping around in rock pools. Though tricky to see, there's a little enamel swan badge attached to the coat; I'd picked it up from a seaside gift shop that very morning. I'm also quite a fan of wearing jumpers and coats with shorts - seasonally confusing, but fun, I always think. I don't remember coming across any crabs in the end, but that's fine because I always find their little eyes and big claws a bit horrible.

spring colours

Well isn't this just totally glorious? Vampire Weekend in a medley of faded spring colours (lemon, pistachio, raspberry!) for GQ. 'I mean, I'm always happy to engage in a dialogue about Polo shirts', says frontman Ezra Koenig. Good to know. Read/see more here. This shoot makes me long for summer clothing opportunities - I plan on dressing in gelato/sorbet tones from head to toe come July (as I do every July, obviously).

three films

(I really need to see these this weekend.)

Thursday, 11 April 2013


Rejoice - I have a new bike. Here's the story... I picked up an old Bobbin last summer (see here), and even though it was incredibly handsome and felt very safe, it was also big, heavy and hulking - not an easy ride up and down the hills of north London. So, I traded him (her?) in for a racer. A beautiful, slick racer from Schwinn. It's as light as a feather! Also, I love the slate grey colour and matching brown wheels, handlebars and saddle. It's taking a bit of getting used to (it feels quite strange after years of riding gigantic, clumsy Dutch bikes), but I think it'll be worth it in the long run. Much less work and a lot easier to carry up a flight of steps. Here's to riding off into sunny new horizons...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

wish list: roi soleil

Well, that's my summer holiday uniform officially sorted, then. I've grown tired of plain and striped swimwear I think - when it comes to poolside attire, I'm opting for outrageous upon outrageous print. To be worn together for maximum blinding effect, I'm reckoning. Printed Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt and Short-Length Printed Cotton-Blend Swim Shorts, both by Dolce & Gabbana from MR PORTER. But more importantly, where to decamp to this year? A Greek island? The south of France?

magazine reading: kinfolk volume seven

An ode to ice cream and a celebration of spring. Buy it here.

tovar spring/summer 2013

Tovar's functional menswear line is inspired by traveling and the jet-set era of modern explorers. Inspired by his travels, Los Angeles based designer and founder Terence Yeung combines style and substance with a man’s suitcase in mind. I'm really enjoying the brand's spring/summer 2013 collection - in particular that forest green field jacket, with its contrasting toffee and sky blue interior. My other favourite picks include the striped shirts with their buttoned patch pockets and the blue work blazer with its striking camouflage lining. I'm also a pretty big fan of those grey linen shorts (buy here). Discover more from the new spring/summer collection here.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Friday, 5 April 2013

i can barely wait

May 10th 2013.

the country house springtime hit list

Read my latest piece for Cherchbi (the British leather goods company), The Country House Springtime Hit List, by visiting their journal here.

As I sit here at home, fingers cold and typing, I find myself staring out of the window, past bare, skeletal trees and into grim, grey depths of nothingness. A little bleak? Well, I think we’re all in agreement that winter has long outstayed its welcome. Perpetual snow showers and icy, bitter winds are trying our collective patience. Yet I can still dream of the springtime (it will come, it categorically has to) and in these dreams, what best conjures hope? Bright sunshine, sprawling lawns, fountains, gardens and a big old country house to get lost in, of course...

two new books for the weekend

Thursday, 4 April 2013

two restaurants, two cookbooks

On my wish list: The Ethicurean: Recipes from a Walled Garden (due to be published in May) and Fäviken. Both books provide an insight into remarkable restaurants: The Ethicurean in the west of England and Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden.

In 2010 four friends set up The Ethicurean restaurant in an enchanting Victorian walled garden in the Mendip Hills, just outside Bristol. The ethos of the restaurant is a focus on seasonality, ethical sourcing of ingredients and attention to the local environment. In just two years, this inspiring restaurant has been awarded both the Observer Food Monthly Best Ethical Restaurant 2011 and a Michelin Bib Gourmand 2013. The Ethicurean Cookbook is a beautiful book that follows the Ethicurean team over the course of a year in their quest for innovative dishes, seasonality and freshness of ingredients. (Taken from The Ethicurean's blog. Read more about the book here.)

Magnus Nilsson has been refining his seasonal food since November 2008 and his restaurant, Fäviken Magasinet, is becoming legendary among globe-trotting diners. Guests make the trek to its location on a hunting estate 750km north of Stockholm, curious about cod served with ‘the first foraged vegetables of the year’ and diced cow’s heart with marrowbone – extracted at the table by chefs armed with a saw.

Both restaurants, though hundreds of miles apart, seem to share values - a deep understanding of and appreciation for seasonality and the best, freshest ingredients. I'm yet to visit either restaurant (the cookbooks will have to suffice for now), but I'm imagining a journey down to Bristol might be a little more manageable versus a trek through the rolling mountains of northern Sweden (more's the pity).

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

magazine reading: the world of interiors may 2013

After spending months trying to get the design of our bathroom just right, I've become more than a little obsessed with what makes a washroom wonderful. Whenever I happen to enter a new one (a friend's/restaurant's/hotel's), I can't help but notice every single detail - the taps, the tiles, the towels, the lighting... So, naturally, when the new issue of The World of Interiors arrived through our letterbox a few days ago, I was very happy to discover that the May issue is dedicated to the best kitchens and bathrooms the world over. Ah, the kitchen and the bathroom: my two favourite places, without a shadow of a doubt, simply because I like to eat lots and I like to take long baths (more than anything, really).

Talking of bathrooms, we're still on the lookout for a big mirror to grace the wall of ours at home. We actually bought a very beautiful one from Habitat, but it arrived smashed to pieces in its box. This happened two more times - same mirror, same shop. The horror! Doesn't this mean that I've accumulated 21 years worth of bad luck?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

easter in edinburgh

We spent the Easter weekend in Edinburgh, visiting family and resting our tired London minds and bodies. We tucked ourselves away from the bitterly cold weather, venturing out only to eat lunch or to buy provisions for supper. On Friday we tried horse tartare (a little strange, my young English palate has to admit) at L'Escargot Bleu and guzzled down a bottle of Gewürztraminer, before heading home with a sore head and allowing ourselves to indulge in an afternoon nap. (Also: is it wrong that I sort of love the restaurant's old wine crate and striped linen tea towel lampshades? Possibly...) On Saturday we cooked sea bass with lemons and risotto and on Sunday we obviously had to have lamb and dauphinoise. Easter heaven.