Saturday, 31 December 2016

2017 Approaches

So, another year. I think we are all viewing this one with some fear given the twin horrors of Trump and Brexit. But life must go on, so here is my annual review of 2016 and plans for 2017.
The big thing was obviously moving to London for Alistair's work. This has been all of stressful, exciting, challenging, disturbing and fun. I am doing a lot of new things and exploring new places. In 2017 I plan to see all the museums in London, to have a good understanding of its geography and to roll with the newness and uncertainty of this adventure. And to grow fruit and veg on my balcony.
I am supposedly on a sabbatical from the castle but this is all very undecided. I am trying out work in a library archive and in education as I think collections care and curatorial work is dead in the current world. I do not want to be a dinosaur and must keep developing.
This year my reading project America was somewhat eclipsed by reading about London. Next year in a homage to multiculturalism, postcolonialism and for my volunteer project at Kenwood House on black history I will be reading about Africa.
I would also like to try and understand and appreciate more about modern art and have started by reading Grayson Perry's brilliant book Playing to the Gallery.
Healthwise I am recovered enough to have run a 5k and am doing some yoga. I walk all the time now I don't have my car.
In terms of politics what can I say other than rolling on the ground crying. I have met lots of very political people in London. I left the Labour Party as I disapprove of Jeremy Corbyn and am proud to be a liberal elite.
I think the next year will be a challenging one in many ways but hope to learn from all that it brings.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Seen from the train

Just before christmas we travelled up from Euston to Carlisle on the train. The journey is unexciting until you reach the Lake District when suddenly the landscape rears up into spectacular hills, washed by sudden weather. The train plunges among them and it is sensational.
Also using my new Winsor and Newton travel watercolour set. I think the colours are better in this, although there is no black! Apparently using black and white paints are bad, you should mix your own.
How do I make black from other colours?

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Girl on the Train

For Leen who said she missed the Retrogirl vintage posts. This girl was rocking a 1970s look on the tube train. Giant hat, shaggy fur coat. Actually fur seems to be in fashion here. Hopefully it is all fake although I see a lot of actual fur in Chiswick, some vintage, some not. 
I like the way the pen and watercolour run together in this picture.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Wallpaper History

I pass this small building on my way to Chiswick Library. It always catches my eye, with its quirky architecture and patterned brick. I cheated a bit in this picture as it is partly built up in front. I think this was one if the entrances to the famous Sanderson Wallpaper Factory on Barley Mow Lane behind the archway. This was one of the major industries in Chiswick in the C19th and are still a luxury wallcovering maker today.
I always enjoy industrial buildings, which are often overlooked.

Sunday, 4 December 2016


Yesterday we went to Dragonmeet Game Convention in Hammersmith. I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it but it was briiliant. We browsed the main hall of board games, roleplaying games (think Dungeons and Dragons) and attended two seminars. Everyone there was very friendly, welcoming and I met some of Alistair's gaming buddies. There were lots of tables with people gaming, bring and buy, stalls and even a few people dressed up. I wouldn't have wanted to have spent the day in a cthulu costume with padded tentacles though.
The seminars were Ken Hite and Robin Laws of legendary podcast Ken and Robin Talk abut Stuff, which covers gaming, history, food, the occult and many more topics. They did a live radio show with audience questions.
Also John Kovalik, writer and artist of many games and of the cartoon Dork Tower, which I recommend. He also did a signed drawing for us!
The lady illustrated was one of the staff organising arrivals and I loved her steampunk outfit.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Chiswick House

Our local park in Chiswick is the grounds of the beautiful, classical Chiswick House. The park is small but perfectly formed with a rocky waterfall, lake, sphinx statues, classical mini temples, walled garden and conservatory.
I did this picture of Chiswick House as a christmas card for the great guys I am working with in the local studies library. It shows the house before it fell into disrepair and much of it was demolished. It is still extraordinarily lovely, but only the middle part survives.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Vintage in Hammersmith

Once a month, there is a fantastic vintage clothing fair in Hammersmith Town Hall. I got free tickets courtesy of my generous friend Alison.
Hammersmith town hall is interesting as from the front it is a concrete brutalist horror, but this is grafted onto a lovely art deco building behind, with murals depicting the history of Hammersmith. I find Hamnersmith quite fascinating in its mix of old and new. 
The fair was amazing, two halls of really high end vintage, from rare Victorian survivors to 1980s designer items. Particular highlights included....

Many beaded 1920s flapper dresses, some fringed in tassels and fur, some Egyptian inspired
Evil but luxurious fur coats, coats and muffs.
Velvet opera capes from the 1910s.
1950s cocktail hats like little pancakes
Embroidered satin dressing gowns, some with dragons, ideal for an Agatha Christie murder
A 1940s black velvet and white satin jumpsuit, very Agent Carter
A 1910s primrose yellow velvet evening gown with puff sleeves
A 1950s cocktail dress in black fabric with giant black velvet polka dots
A Victorian silk coat with shoulder cape and braid buttons and embroidery
1940s satin dance shoes with diamante buckles
Handpainted chiffon dresses from the 1930s
1960s turquiose silk cocktail dress with giant bows (illustrated)

 Vintage fabrics from glazed floral chintz to pastel georgette. I bought three metres of black embroidered 1950s satin. Most vintage is too small for me but making your own....

I was in fashion heaven. Prices ranged from £5 for costume jewellery to over £1000 for designer vintage. I was restrained this time, but I will be back... 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Hogarth's House

Another painting in my new ink and watercolour technique. This one did come out how I wanted with lots of autumn colour. We arrived in London in October so it always seems autumnal to me.  
This is Hogarth's House in Chiswick, beautifully restored as cool grey C18th rooms with an interesting exhibition about the artist.
I love the small walled farden with an ancient tree, sadly overshadowed by road noise and building.
Amusingly, Hogarth had a dog called Trump...

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Colours of London

This is part of the rooftop view from our flat. I like the shapes of the ceramic chimney pots, the spikyness of the aerial and the colours of the sootstained London brick.
Everyone keeps telling me I should do more pen drawing and I think they are right.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Shopping In London

I have been exploring London a lot over the last six weeks. One of the great things is that there are so many independent shops. And just really great shops. Some favourites I have discovered so far...

Where I live in Chiswick is great for bookshops and delis. We have five bookshops; a Waterstones, a second hand one, an antiquarian one, a remaindered one and one just small independent one.
Foodwise there are two amazing butchers, a mindboggling fish shop and many, many bakeries and delis. Heaven for foodies.

Shepherds Bush is a more varied area with Goldhawk Road home to about fifteen fabric shops, some of which feature Indian or African fabrics. Shepherds Bush Market Is good for cheap stuff and also sells lots of African food like yams and goat meat.

Oxford Street John Lewis is beautiful and massive and has a huge homewares department. I got very lost on  just one floor and never found haberdashery.

Wholefoods in Kensington is a very gorgeous, very expensive food shop with wonderful artisan loaves, a sealed room for pongy cheese and much much more.

For mainstream shopaholics the Westfield Shopping Centre near Shepherds Bush is enormous and has all the chains and department stores you expect in a glitzy building.

Forbidden Planet Covent Garden is a big comic, book and merchandise shop, fantastic if you like fantasy, scifi, superheroes and those things. Nearby is The Orcs Nest which stocks roleplaying, card and board games in a grungy futuristic interior.

I am sure there are many more shops to discover, my next target is Portobello Road.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hammersmith Riverside

Really pleased with this painting of the Thames by Hammersmith Bridge. I love the variety of buildings along the river, from small ancient ones on the left, through C18th in the middle and an Edwardian turreted one on the right. You get wonderful skies in London too as the weather sweeps over. 
This was a long walk along the south side of the river we did with friends yesterday, ending with a dramatic sunset and beer in a waterfront pub.

London Water

One of the things I was totally unprepared for when I moved to London was the water. Why were the kitchen and bathroom covered in white blobs and gritty deposits? Why did the tea taste terrible? Why was my hair lank and dull?
It's the water. In Scotland, our water is soft, that is there are very few minerals in it. Soap foams easily. In London the water is thick with minerals, which is healthy, but irritating. Nothing foams. I always assumed water was water....
Anyway, if you find yourself in London or anywhere with hard water...
For tea, a kettle with a filter works wonders if you do not want to filter all your water in a jug or invest in a water softening unit plumbed into your kitchen. 
For hair, use lots of a vigorously cleansing shampoo; I like Aussie Mega shampoo, and a moisturising hair product; I have Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil primer. 
For the bath I like dead sea salts which seem to soften the water and nothing will foam anyway.
For the cleaning, I am still experimenting and scrubbling scurf out of the bath.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Slow Cooking

The oven doesn't work in our new flat. We are getting a new one but until then I was getting sick of cooking everything on the hob, with food smells and extractor fans.
Enter the slow cooker, which I bought for £20 from Robert Dyas. That shop sells everything, why are there none in Scotland?
I thought of slow cookers as being a bit depresssing 1950s housewifey but they have a fanatical following and I am starting to love mine. Incase you don't know them, it is basically an electric casserole. It is very cheap to power and can be left on all day while you go out. Plus as Autumn comes it's all about stews, hotpots and tagines for me. Facebook claims you can bake in it, make lasagne and everything so I am excited to experiment.
Things I have discovered so far: use scary horrible looking meat lumps, not nice little meat pieces.
You have to leave it on for an insanely long time, at least six hours. Try not to lift the lid too much. Use lots of liquid and get flavour in there with onion, garlic, carrots, herbs, spices, stock etc. You need lots of flavour. It's good to brown the meat first or it looks a bit peelywally (pale). You can warm your hands on it if you feel cold.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

London Style

London is a capital of style. Everywhere, fascinating people in everything from the height of chic to burkhas to the downright eccentric. Which are my favourites. I love people watching, especially in the Tube, although I must be more covert...Saw this awesome girl working in Forbidden Planet, the comic shop. Her outfit, winged dark glasses, pink satin bomber jacket, blue tights and pink jelly shoes. I am inspired by people's sheer creativity, here, anything goes.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Tester new blogging programme

Hi just trying a different blogging programme as the other kept turning off after a few seconds, so annoying. And always just after you had got a whole load of prose worked out in your head. Ok I'm not Shakespeare but that does throw you right off. This seems better though.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

In London

Tester post with photo of uplifting building in Southwark. I think the ad is actually for beer. 
My internet connection here is terrible so I only get a little while before it goes dead and starts over.
The blog will resume when I have my art stuff (packed) and decent wifi (about two weeks).

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Seen from the Road

Seen from the road near Turriff: Forglen House gatehouse. I walked up the seemingly endless wooded drive to the house on a trip with friends. The main house is an enormous Tudorbethan plie, straight out of Jeeves or Sherlock Holmes. Tatty blinds hang in the enormous, heavy curtained windows and the ground floor is a maze of peeling, cobwebbed corridors. Continuing past the house you roam up a forested valley with streams and ponds below you to an enormous walled garden. Along one side are sagging Victorian greenhouses, overgrown with plants and along the other a rose pergola where thorny branches whip at you as you walk by. A lost place, in a lonely valley in the autumn sun.
A fitting goodbye to the forgotten corners of Aberdeenshire.
You can rent the lodge and various cottages for holidays, especially for fishing trips.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Shopping Soothes

I had to go into town today to do a mail redirection form, get keys cut and meet a friend for lunch. Afterwards we had time for some shopping. It's so much better shopping with a friend for feedback, ideas and moral support. Otherwise I just wander aimlessly. It is also fun if you have slightly different styles. I like retro style stuff and bold prints. Friend likes bohemian stuff and bold prints.
I enjoyed all the 70s style stuff that is in the shops at the moment, quite nostalgic for me. (Born in 1974). Lots of polo necks, floral blouses, corduroy and slightly frumpy, granny dresses. I bought a green victorian style blouse, black jersey dress with colourful flowers and a navy skirt patterned with ropes. The first two are excitingly out of my comfort zone, but it is good to reboot your wardrobe with varied items sometimes. Gives it a shot of new life.
I also find shopping quite relaxing, if I am not looking for anything in particular. For lunch we had bagels and sat in the sunshine. An ideal afternoon. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Seen from the Road

Aberdeen has the reputation of being a grey and gloomy city. Maybe, but not for this person's house on St Swithin Street. Alistair walks past it on his way back from work and I walk past it on the way to the hairdressers. The front garden is a blaze of colour on the street, raging out from the bedding plants, geraniums and hanging baskets. There is no holding back and it brightens my day every time I see it.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Copper Beeches

My colleagues at work planted a special going away tree for me today. My favourite tree is the copper beech. Partly because they are so dramatic and partly in reference to my favourite Sherlock Holmes story 'The Copper Beeches'. Here is the feisty heroine of the story in front of those trees.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

About Walking

This post is inspired by a fantastic book my mum Leen got me. It arrived in the post in brown paper which made it even more exciting. Flaneuse: Women Walk the City by Lauren Elkin. Already it has mentioned my favourite haunts in Paris, where walking is a great pleasure. I want to walk and explore in London. To amble the streets where is quieter, looking at buildings, trees, people. A lot of my blog posts are about things and people I see while walking. 
I think walking is quite feminist too, in a world where we are supposed to be always useful or fearful driving from one destination to another, walking only in shopping centres or offices. 
I think this book could be a sort of bible to me in my new adventure.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Fashionistas of the Week

I like to spot people with great outfits or unusual style when I am out and about. These ladies were not together but I have done them as a group. A girl with fuschia pink hair and a cloud patterned dress, yeamed with biker boots. A woman in a red sundress with a leopard pattern and massive sunglasses. An older lady with bright red hair in a hairnet and an orange cardigan over Japanese style wide leg trousers. All sporting bold and individual looks.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

5k Hooray

The day dawned coolish and slightly sunny today for our 5k run. Perfect conditions. Hazlehead park was lovely and sunny, lots of people dressed as superheroes which was the theme of the run. I wore my Harley Quinn tshirt and Alistair wore Batman. 
After an incomprehensible warmup, a meetup with our friend Melody, we were off.
The first 1k was a long agony of tussocky grass followed by a steep hill. I was in agony and felt I could not do this, I was not ready. Also I worked a nine long day on my feet yesterday so was tired. Alistair urged me on and after that it flattened put and we headed off into beautiful, peaceful woodland. Well, peaceful apart from a mass of panting, gasping people in dayglo sportswear. We were passed by two lovely horses and a french bulldog running alongside. 
I was feeling better now and moving gently along, enjoying the trees and flowers and fungi on stumps as we passed. There was a cool breeze which felt great.
By now I was keeping running continuously, I had got in a flow and moved beyond pain and gloom. 
I was also given a jellybaby, which helped.
At last we could see the finish, the sun shone and we completed in 42 minutes. My last was 38 minutes but that was five years ago. Mostly I was happy that my foot had held up and I had stuck in there and got to the end. At the end of the race I was given a banana by a small girl dressed as She Ra. 
I'm going to keep running, try and do 5k without walking and at a slightly faster pace.
I could not have done it without Alistair's support and kind words as I struggled along and he bounded ahead. Always with me, encouraging me.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Colour Choice

This week's post is basically about my new cardigan. I was shopping in Sainsburys (large supermarket, also sells clothes and homeware) when I spotted a red waterfall style cardigan. I needed a new cardigan, but red is not usually my colour. For one thing, it is my Stepmum Ying's favourite colour and I don't want to tread on Anyone else's sartorial toes. Lots of people seem to have a signature or favourite colour and you don't want to take away from that. I bought the cardigan and people keep telling me how good I look in red. I think it gives me more colour in my face as I can be quite pale.
So this is to encourage people to step out of their colour comfort zone sometimes.
I usually wear green, navy and blue. But sometimes I fancy a more punchy, bold colour and crack and buy yellow or red or pink. We don't have to be tasteful all the time. Sometimes you want an outfit that says 'look at me!'

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Search for the Stone

On Thursday I went on a fantastic trip up far, far north with my friends and colleagues Anna And Jane. Part of the plan was to visit Cawdor Castle, but for me the main objective was Pictish stones. It was a long journey through miles of forests flanking the road north. 
First, we stopped off at Sueno's Stone near Forres. This is an enormous six metre high monolith, which seethes with battling figures and celtic knotwork. It is sensational. The stone may depict a huge battle between the Picts and invading Vikings about a thousand years ago. 
A few miles on is Rodney's Stone, on the drive to Brodie Castle. I have painted it here. Easily overlooked as it is only about four feet high, but with fascinating monsters, symbols and an intricate cross on the back. The otherwordlyness of it draws you in and grips you. I wanted to look longer, I could have examined and drawn it for hours. Luckily I have a dust mask fitting for work at Brodie in a few weeks, so I can return.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Seen from the Train

A while coming, this one. I like travelling by train and spotting interesting buildings as I go. This house is just south of Edinburgh at Prestonpans. It dates from the 1600s and was recently restored after a terrible fire in the 1960s. It is is harled in a lovely orangey gold colour and has two small outlying towers, formerly used as doocots. Pigeons were kept in small towers for food. 
Two historical facts, Prestonpans is named after the salt pans that were a big medieval industry by the seashore. In the Battle of Prestonpans the owner of the house died fighting Bonnie Prince Charlie. I found it poignant that he died within sight of his own home. Also, it is a romantic myth that no Scots fought for the government against Prince Charlie, a Catholic autocrat. 
I love this house and woner if you can visit as there is a small railway station just nearby.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Buddlea Butterfly

Just outside our flat is a spectacular Buddlea shrub. It has these vivid purple flowers and attracts insects. This is a tortoiseshell butterfly. We have had fantastic weather this weekend and I wanted to celebrate it with a colourful painting.

Sunday, 31 July 2016


I often dream about being back at art college. Yesterday I had a very vivid dream in which I was frenziedly painting these three architectural forms using a roller of black ink.
I have no idea what this means. But here they are, just for interest.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Reading, Projects...

A request was received for a reading project update.

My Romans reading: I am currently really enjoying the Imperium series of novels by Robert Harris. They are based on the life of Cicero, the Roman politician, lawyer and writer. As well as being interesting, lively and well written, they give you a real feel for his contemporaries: the unscrupulous Julius Caesar, the plutocrat Crassus and the warlord Pompey. Great fun. 

America: I have finished the excellent Book on the Southern USA by Paul Theroux. It is impossible to read this book and not get angry. Not the Gone with the Wind South, the subsistence farming, racist, violent, gun owning, religious South. An eye opener and a call to action to help these people. 
I have also read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck which I quite enjoyed. Beautiful writing and great characters but didn't really draw me in somehow. It reminded me that I read The Pearl in school and didn't enjoy it.

New Project: following on from my Stone Circles exhibition at work last year, next year I am on to Pictish Stones. After that, the Celts, maybe. Today I went to Aberdeenshire Council HQ to see the famous Rhynie Man carving displayed in their foyer and pick up some leaflets. Planning lots of reading, roadtrips and art projects around this too. More to follow.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Back on Track

So, after about three years of injury (knee and foot ligaments), physio and whatnot, I felt the time had come. I kept telling people I wanted to start running again and how I missed it and how I felt unfit and untoned (frankly, a bit flabby).
After a busy round of holidays, big events at work and weekends away I finally had a quiet day off today to start back on couch to 5k. It seems funny how I did this years ago and here I am again. But now I'm still fitter in my breathing and upper body.
Anyway, it was great. Ached a bit in my knee and foot but it wasn't actually hard. At first you run and walk alternately each minute for 20mins which was fine. It felt amazing to be buzzing along, listening to music and enjoying the scenery.
I enjoyed my old running route along the old railway cycle path and round Duthie Park which looked fantastic with all the flowerbeds and the restored ponds.
Music of choice today: ACDC, Donna Summer and Gwen Stefani on my new iphone with the couch to 5k app.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Sewing Geek

Just to flag up my latest sewing project. My sewing mojo is back! This is an original Butterick pattern from 1961, reissued. The early 60s patterns are much more reminiscent of the 50s, possibly a bit more relaxed. I love making retro patterns. An interesting period detail is the sleeves cut in one with the body. The dress has a sash that wraps across the front and ties at the back. I'm seeing a lot of dresses like these in the shops at the moment. I put pockets in because pockets are always good. The fabric is a very cheap poly cotton, but in a nice denim type shade. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Street Style

Spotted this girl in Aberdeen wearing a black biker jacket, full yellow skirt and silver metallic shoes.
A bright colour and something metallic always makes a good outfit to my mind.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Gorgeousness in Germany

Imagine my surprise and joy when this was the first thing I saw in Frankfurt. Emerging by the underground station, the medieval tower Eschenheimer Turm. Originally the city was surrounded by medieval city walls and towers, some of which survive. We found Bruckenheimer Turm by the university, it also features picturesque woodwork as well as a panoply of really fun turrets like something from a cheesy fantasy novel. Most of Frankfurt is quite modern, following heavy bombing during WW2, although they are now reconstructing large areas of the old medieval centre. 
We really enjoyed our few days there. Although not one of the world's most beautiful cities, it has great shopping, lots of interesting museums and sights. Food highlights included the beer, the fabulous cakes and the currywurst. I am amazed no-one in Britain has thought of making a sausage based curry!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Chaos versus organisation

When the world feels in chaos, you sort what you can. Cue another giant wardrobe reorganisation.
Despair due to the EU referendum and despite the fact that pigs might fly before we can sell the flat now doesn't mean I'm giving up.

Some wardrobe reorganisation tips:
Get rid of all your excess hangars. About forty in my case, incidentally forming an interesting record of our shopping habits over the years...Casual Club at C&A anyone? Also those old style wood ones to crush things in and those spring loaded metal ones, which don't seem to be used any more. Ones from drycleaners can be returned and others might go to charity shops (I'm hoping).

Try on all your clothes and brutally purge anything that doesn't fit or is too young for you. I passed on some favourite things ( such as my decades old Laura Ashley black velvet dress) to a younger, thinner friend. We filled four plastic bags with clothes for Oxfam, my charity of choice. Anything you really love but cannot bear to part with can perhaps be letvout a bit or taken up or down a bit or otherwise tweaked. I am doing this with my much loved (but size 12 ) turquoise linen dress from Hobbs. It has these amazing feature pockets where you put your hands in and they meet in the middle. And rickrack braid trims. Sometimes you just buy something that is brilliant, not merely appropriate or useful.

Sort your clothes into either types or colours. I prefer types and have back storage in the spare room for out of season wear (although that's a loose category in Aberdeen) and special occasion wear. I segregated grown up tops and tshirts from my large collection of superhero, scifi and science themed tshirts. Today I'm wearing evolution of hominids tshirt, one of my favourites.

Throw away anything which is holey or disintegrating or cut up to make dusters.

Buy anything new you need. This is the good bit. Mostly skirts in my case as my waist is my most changing measurement, also tshirts as these actually wear out.

Enjoy an increased sense of wellbeing.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

More Haddo

A lovely day at beautiful Haddo today. At lunchtime, my colleague Anna pointed out this interesting building in the woods behind the Peatyards. This is the original game larder, a delightful building in wood with louvered windows for ventilation and a deep roof overhang for coolness.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

House and Home

No, we are not moving to a cottage. This lovely house is on the Landmark Trust website which came up on my facebook feed. They restore old buildings and rent them out for holidays. This is a thatched cottage in Devon.
But it reminds me of my ultimate dream of a house with a garden.


The last few weeks have been devoted to cleaning and decluttering the flat ready to put it on the market.
As we have a lot of stuff, but want to keep it, we hired a unit from Flexistore. They deliver a giant room sized crate to you in a horsebox like trailer. You fill and padlock it and then they take it away and store it for as long as you need. Genius.

Into ours we put: about 20 boxes of books
About 10 boxes of cds and dvds
About 6 boxes of comics
About 5 boxes of models
6 storage units
2 vintage radios
2 pictures
1 xmas tree

We used about 30m of bubblewrap. I have learned in my work you can never have too much packing material. Professionally, I've done this for a 20 room castle and a 50 room stately home. You need a plan, more packing than you dream possible and sometimes up to 5 skips for the unwanted stuff.

Now I am cleaning everything, arranging and 'tarting up'. Lingering toiletries etc will go into decorative boxes and anything else stashes in the wardrobes when not used. It feels very empty now.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Shades of Summer

Two fantastic summer fashions I spotted this week.
Yellow crop peasant blouse with wide trousers and platforms, afro.
Floral playsuit with gigantic pink hat.
Both supercool homages to the 70s, and everyone likes a bit of bohemian in the sun.
Sadly the summer weather is somewhat in abeyance at the moment.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Tower House

The week before last I went on a fantastic trip to Udny Castle with my friend Alison. The castle is private so this was a rare opportunity. 
Outside, a lone tower is surrounded by forest and gloomy rhododendron drives. Inside, a riot of decoration...a tiny bedroom even the ceiling covered in green felt, a fabulous 80s chintzy bedroom, an L shaped bath in a tiny turret, a baroque hall with gigantic ochre velvet sofas and a grand piano piled high with books. Everywhere, tiny spiral stairs, nooks, crannies, stuffed with books and fabrics and tattered cushions. So homely. The tower dates from about 1500 and is the survivor of a gigantic victorian pile that was built around it. 
Painting wise, trying some actual perspective here and quite pleased with the results.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Reading Project

My reading project goes on.
Latest Romans reading is the Shire book of Romano British mosaics. I love mosaics and went to see them in the British Museum as well as seeing the famous Lod mosaic in Venice. It was on a travelling tour as it was in the way of a major road development where it was discovered. 
I love the geometric patterns, animals and naive figures on the mosaics. 
Recommend looking up the Aldborough Wolf which is grinning cheesily over Romulus and Remus, also a very bow legged British Venus and two gangly nude mythological heroes.
I may have to find a book with nice colour illustrations though as this one is black and white only which does not capture the glory of the art.

For the Americans I am really enjoying the very informative, insightful and atmospheric In America Travels with Steinbeck by Geert Mak. The author retraces an epic journey by John Steinbeck. I am embarassed to say I have never read any Steinbeck, the author seems to like Cannery Row best. Any recommendations, readers?

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Lost River

Walking along by Bridge of Dee, you pass over a small medieval footbridge. This was moved from Holburn Street for road widening. Under the footbridge runs a stream, emerging from a sinister grated tunnel. This is a lost river or stream of Aberdeen, most of which are now routed underground, but can sometimes be found in unexpected places where you hear running water.
The little bird is a Dipper, which feeds by water. I had not seen one so close before. They are very swift and acrobatic flyers.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Sew and Sew

A sewing update. I am finally reaching the stage with my sewing where I can make things I really like and wear. Although I am still wearing the navy cotton pencil skirt that was the second thing I ever made, just so useful. 
This is a seventies style a line skirt with large pockets and front pleat, Butterick pattern B6182. I made it in navy wool/poly twill (or that's what it said on ebay, who knows) and lined the pockets in navy flowery silk offcuts. I am wearing it at the mo and it is so comfy with the flared skirt and giant pockets to wedge your hands into. 
I am now working on a navy stretch fabric dress made up from three patterns mashed together. It has a crossover wrap section from a Japanese sewing book series Pattern Magic, Which has lots of really conceptual, geometric weird things in it. Pattern Magic Stretch is especially interesting, but I wouldn't say they are easy to make, I spent a long happy time mentally wrestling with how they worked. I really like the design and assembly stage best. Will update when completed.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Core Wardrobe

As people seem to enjoy the fashion based blog entries I thought I would write about the idea of a core style and wardrobe, which I find is useful when shopping.
Perhaps readers could share their must have items or style evolution....

I find my style has changed over time, as I grow older, my lifestyle changes and my body and style alter. As a teenager I was cripplingly shy and wore the uniform of jeans, jersey tops, jumpers or sweatshirts and trainers. I still like jersey tops. In art college I went crazy for goth things, fake fur, tartan and velvet and I still love all these. Recently, I have been in more of a vintage and retro phase, moving from the 60s to the 50s ( more flattering on my body type) and more recently the 40s (inspired by the fantastic fashions in TV series Agent Carter). I have always loved fashion history, old films and tv and it tends to inform how I look at things in shops 'Look..the 70s are back...' My 60s look was very much inspired by Emma Peel's wardrobe in the tv series The Avengers, for instance. 

My core wardrobe these days consists of either plain colours or big prints and fairly simple shapes. I have given up wearing trousers, even jeans, and favour a below the knee skirt, teamed with tshirt and cardi. The tshirt may express my geeky tendencies with superhero or horror motifs. The skirt may be homemade and will probably be a fairly boxy a line which suits my body shape. I wear this with black tights and comfy mary jane shoes because of my foot problem. I love an outrageous fabric in a coat, be it tweed, leopard pattern or brocade, again in a fairly classic shape. Going out, jersey dresses are comfortable and not too formal and I like to sew these myself. Or for formal something very retro in a glamourous fabric teamed with some wacky footwear. Team this with a classic handbag with a fifties flavour and I am ready to go.

What do you like to wear, readers?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Posh weekend

Last weekend I went on an amazing trip to Castle of Park, Banff with two good friends/colleagues. We had a three leg drive, I drove to Pitmedden, then we drove to Turiff, then Banff in the far north. It was all worth it though when we arrived at this amazing house for our dinner and overnight stay. The castle is run as a very luxurious B&B, with four poster beds, billiard room, library, everything you could want. We played billiards, listened to the piano, drank champagne and had an amazing dinner. Then we sat around, stoking the log fire and admiring the collection of Victorian art.
The next day I was feeling a little rough due to too much wine, but a lovely breakfast was served, we explored the house further and then sadly left.
Strongly recommended for a luxurious stay in total peace and quiet.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Fashion Update for Maria

To follow on from my sister in law Maria's excellent fashion post, here's a few things I have bought lately.
I got this fantastic 50s style dress by goth brand Hell Bunny at the Aberdeen Comic Con. It is patterned with hawaiian tiki motifs and zombie girls. It's a great shape for my body type with my large boobs and is glamourous and fun. Ideal for my friend's wedding in the summer as she is also a bit unconventional...
At the moment I am quite keen on the new maxi skirts, eccentric prints and everything navy. I'm going for bolder things as I have to wear sensible shoes now, so can branch out elsewhere.
Recent buys include a quite bonkers metallic zigzag pattern maxi and a yellow maxi skirt both from M&S, a commemorative scarf for the Queens 90th birthday patterned with corgis from Sainsburys and a grey scarf patterned with giant insects from ebay. I'm doing some workshops on insects at work and I can wear this those days!
Regarding sewing projects, I am making a 70s style navy skirt with patch pockets, which is a bit more work friendly.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Reading Project update

A reading project update as requested:

Americans: just finished An Exuberant Catalogue of Dreams about Americans who restored country houses in the UK. William Randolph Hearst, the original Citizen Kane and his Welsh castle. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and his Scottish castle, now a luxury hotel where Madonna got married. Broke aristocrats like Thomas Fermor Hesketh, who took a yacht to the US with some friends to search for rich American girls to marry. Millionare's daughter Lillian Hammersley, who changed her name to Consuelo, married the Duke of Marlborough, then divorced him. Millionaire Willie James, whose wife Evelyn was one of many lovers of Edward VII. Colourful people, outrageous wealth, stunning homes.

Romans: still really enjoying the series of Falco novels by Lindsay Davies. Witty, gripping crime thrillers set in Ancient Rome, where the hero is an early Philip Marlowe. Highly recommended as a light read.

Also a rather fusty old book Roman Remains in Britain. Amazing how many there are and how far the Romans reached. I always feel this is somewhat glossed over, especially in Scotland...I don't think the British like history where they are invaded rather than invading. The Romans specialised in cultural assimilation, they accepted local religions, tribes and leaders as long as they 'got with the programme' as we say now. Eventually the Romans withdrew from Britain as the empire was overextended and opened us up to the Viking and Anglo Saxon invaders instead.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Raspberry Beret

This post is a tribute to much loved singer Prince who died this week. Perhaps this girl's outfit I spotted today is also a tribute with her raspberry beret. Raspberry Beret is my favourite Prince song and contains my words to live by 'she walked in through the out door'. Always walk in through the out door, and like Prince, don't be afraid to be yourself.

For anyone who doesn't know the brilliant, eccentric performer that was Prince, here is a link.

Saturday, 16 April 2016


A break from pretty. This is the John Lewis building in Aberdeen. A lovely shop housed in a very challenging building from 1966. The building was designed for Norco, the Northern Cooperative Society. Sadly the eccentric spired food hall has been demolished. The building rather resembles a crazed giant concrete layer cake. Inside, there are no views from the windows.
I am quite interested in the concrete architecture of the 50s and 60s at the moment. I would especially recommend Concrete Concept, Brutalist Buildings around the World by Christopher Beanland, CCCP by Frederic Chaubin on Soviet architecture and have just bought Concretopia Rebuilding Postwar Britain by John Grindod. I resisted Soviet Bus Stops but it may be mine soon.
Also something pleasing about a watercolour of something that's just not attractive.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Seen from the Road

Seen from the road, or the staff car park. Another in my love letters to Haddo House. This delightful little building is sadly, a game larder. It is created in multicoloured bricks. There is an accompanying game preparation room in the house, a double height white tiled interior with hooks and white sinks that is just too sinister to show here. This little building matches a larger, but equally quirky construction, The Pheasantry, which I may paint later.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Street Style

Part of my series on street style, featuring interesting looking people...While waiting for my chocolate workshop (more on this in a later post), I watched the passers by. This punk/manga styled girl kept striding past along Belmont Street. I loved her green dreadlocks and giant pink trainers.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Lost Thomson

This Easter Weekend we went down to see family in Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire. We stayed in the Somerton House Hotel. This lovely C19th building claims to be work by super rare, cult architect Alexander Greek Thomson who I am really into. Initially I was doubtful but then I saw this amazing door. It's incredibly Greek. It's fantastic and it's made of the almost extinct Kauri wood from New Zealand and I thought...maybe. Any thoughts welcome.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Beautiful Bird

More Haddo updates! When driving up the very long and beautiful drive of Haddo House I keep seeing these lovely fat, colourful birds. They are the size of a small chicken. A friend identified them for me as red legged partridges. There are also red squirrels and I saw a pair of buzzards circling over the treetops, very dramatic.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Hello Haddo

For anyone who fancied an upgrade from an iron shed, let's go full on stately home. This is the fabulous, enormous (around 100 rooms) glamourous Haddo House near Ellon. I am currently volunteering there on tuesdays. Partly as it is useful for work to see and work with other collections, partly to help a friend and partly because who wouldn't want to spend a day roaming through a stunning house full of art treasures and history.
Haddo is a C18th house with Victorian interiors and once belonged to Lord Aberdeen, the British Prime Minister. It's the sort of place you imagine Darcy living in. It is set in rolling parkland and formal gardens and even has it's own church. You can currently tour the house on Sundays and Mondays, check out the National Trust for Scotland website. 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Corrugated Cottage

Seen from the road by Westhill. A defiant, derelict corrugated iron cottage amidst a new office park and bypass development.

This is an interesting article about corrugated iron buildings, if liked.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Baking with Veg

My latest cookery project is with the famous/infamous book Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood, a book of fatless cakes. Instead of butter, the recipes use grated vegetables. I was highly sceptical at first, but they actually work. I don't know how this works in terms of food science as a substitution, god knows. You can also use rice flour so they are gluten free if you need to. I am mainly pursuing this because I love baking, but am trying eat healthily. The cakes are dampish and a light sponge, rather than high and buttery.
So far I have tried the banana cake (with grated courgette) and the ginger cake (with grated butternut squash). My next experiment might be the chocolate cake (beetroot). 
Other vegetables used include aubergine, carrot, parsnip, potato (think of potato scones) pumpkin, swede and sweet potato, even turnip!
I think this book may be a work of deranged genius.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Seen from the Train

Seen from the train on our trip from Aberdeen to York. It's a fantastic journey for castle and stately home spotters, I must have seen about twenty, including the spectacular views of Edinburgh and Durham castles, as well as many I am still trying to identify! This is Ayton Castle, you can see it from the coast side of the train. It looks like the most spectacular baronial castle ever, but is actually Victorian. Sadly the castle cannot be visited but you get a great view from the train.
Does anyone else have any favourite train journeys?

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Dreaming Vintage

One of my repeating dreams is where I open a cupboard or chest and discover a wealth of vintage costume. All of which is gorgeous, seen in great detail, but sadly unsuitable for an event I have to attend because it is too distinctive. Maybe this is a comment on my life. One day I will wear it anyway and stop trying to fit in. Today I pulled out an aqua 50s dress with a satin bodice and net skirt, a 70s maxi dress in multi print and this 50s dress with a black velvet bodice and black satin maxi spot skirt. One day I might make one of these subconscious garments. Or can I buy this somewhere?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Street Style

I don't often see people whose fashion really catches my eye, but the Central Library is always full of interesting people. This incredibly stylish woman was using the photocopiers. She was wearing a sequin beret, sleeveless coat over a leather sleeved sweater and had a sequin, fringed leather bag.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Pilates Success

I am now going to pilates once a week and I really love it. Where yoga is about flexibility, pilates concentrates on flexibility and strength. As I am rehabilitating my foot it is also good in being low impact, you exercise either from standing or lying. After only about six sessions I am already feeling stronger and looking trimmer and today I managed to do this! 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Hobby Update

So, what have I been doing lately?

My Read America Project progresses with Manhattan 45 by Jan Morris. This is about New York after WW2 when it was the preeminent city of the world. It's a fun read full of great anecdotes and characters and really brings the city alive. It also the era of my current favourite TV show, Agent Carter, where a female secret agent is always attempting to save the world from weird threats and baddies.
Also enjoyed Captain America War and Remembrance, again in a Marvel Superhero vein.

Romans are progressing in a lighter way with the excellent Falco novels by Lindsey Davis; the adventures of an Ancient Roman private eye. A great read and lots of fascinating historical nuggets.

Cookingwise, I am interested in Eastern European cookery and have augmented my book on recipes from the Ukraine; Mamushka by the brilliantly named Olia Hercules, with one on Poland; From a Polish Country Kitchen by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden. It's not all cabbage and potato. Tasty, hearty food with interesting herbs and different flavours.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Walking Cure

In my 2016 efforts to get fit, I am trying to walk more. It is a mixed experience. 
Good things about walking: fitness, relaxation, cheapness.
Bad things: weather, shopping bags, safety.
I walked into the town to see my friend Steff. On the way in I enjoyed horizontal rain and sleet, being sprayed with water by passing motorists and nearly being run over by a white van man. On the way back I enjoyed a lovely sunset and being able to look at buildings, such as the City Of God Church on Holborn Street with its elegant classical dome.
Driving is highly addictive in our instantaneous culture, but the slow pace is the thing when you have time.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Shifty Eye

Just got back from the eye clinic, as my optician spotted that I have a shifty right eye. This is a harmless but annoying condition called nystagmus. 
I had never heard of this but it affects about 0.2% of people. Mine is mild and in one eye only. It means that the eye flickers. Mine flickers horizontally, which is common in congenital nystagmus, which you are born with. There is a slight glitch in the communication of the eye and the brain. It is often associated with being bad at sport, a bad driver, clumsyness, vertigo, travel sickness and many other things I have experienced. 
Some people have very bad nystagmus, where it seriously affects their vision and other people can see their eyes constantly moving. Nystagmus is also affected by tiredness and stress and I have noticed that I see worse if I don't feel good. 
Quite interesting to have this unusual but unthreatening condition!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Clock Towers

This clock appers on the tower of Rubislaw Parish Church, Queens Cross, Aberdeen. A wonderful gothic building. Unusually for Aberdeen it is not built in grey granite so provides some colour at this busy junction in one of the nicest parts of the West End. I drive past it on my way to work and, in the winter, it catches the low sun with the dark looming sky behind.