Friday, 15 December 2017

Bonus New Year Resolutions Post

A lot of posts beginning with B this month!

New Year Thoughts 2018

I will continue to live more boldly, trying new things and staying out of my comfort zone.
I have joined an art class and will stretch my art more
I will eat fruit every day
I will walk more and go to the gym once a week
I will clear out the flat
I will climb Bennachie
I will get a new job
I will think about buying a new home
I will say yes to more new experiences
And no to things I don't want to do
I will make good use of all my London experiences

Do any blog readers have any resolutions?

Bananas on the Balcony

A picture of my banana plant at it's peak on the balcony. Having a balcony made me realise how amazing it would be to have a garden. The banana did not fruit but the tomato plants courtesy of my stepdad's son Andrew were fantastic. The banana also reminds me of the amazing huge banana plants in the herbaceous border at Buckingham Palace as I zoomed past in the golf cart.
There may be a bit if a gap in pictures and blogs for a bit as we are both moving and going away for xmas.
Until the New Year!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Baroque In Hammersmith

This is Bradmore House, in Hammersmith. The front facade is a rare and lovely example of English Baroque architecture from the C18th. The formerly very grand house, of which this was a small wing, has had a rather chequered history, being demolished in 1913. The front and two interiors were saved. The front was re-erected as part of the bus garage and the interiors given to a local almshouse and the Geffrye Museum. In 1994 the area was again redeveloped and the front rebuilt with a matching building behind (now a Chinese restaurant) and the Geffrye Museum interior reinstalled. 
The house is in an unappealing location as part of a shopping centre but this front facade can be appreciated from the churchyard over the road. It is one of my favourite local buildings. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Backs of Places: Kensington

This is a small mews by South Kensington station. Mews were back lanes used to access the rear of posher buildings and for stables and staff living. Typically stables and or a coachhouse would open onto a cobbled yard or alley and people who worked with the horses would live above. They are now very desirable homes. In London it is always fun to explore small alleys where you may find older houses, obscure shops or interesting street art. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

House in Pimlico

While wandering with friends the other day I spotted this interesting house. It was on a back street in Pimlico and I am pretty sure it is a Georgian shopfront. Look at the big windows on the ground floor and the decorative woodwork. Further along the street was a painted sign for gas lamps, the kind of thing I particularly enjoy. Sadly as we were zigzagging back lanes I have no idea what street this was or where, but sometimes that has it's own mystery of something found and lost, a little pocket of history.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Drawing Horses 2

Finally got around to painting in the cowboy drawing I did at the horse drawing workshop. I tried to use colours like on the classic cowboy novel covers. Bold colours with lots of contrasting opposites. I tried to go as strong as possible. I used to watch a lot of cowboy films as a kid with my brother and Alistair was always a big fan of cowboy novels by JT Edson. I still enjoy the genre.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Westminster Abbey

And there is also an art post. Westminster Abbey as requested by my friend Stacie from my old work at the gallery. I often walk past this if I am going to meet Alistair from work. It is a jawdroppingly lovely building which always seems bathed in sun and always looks to be at the end of every street in Westminster.
My drawing ink here is Winsor and Newton nut brown rather than my usual black india ink and I like the effect of gentle age it gives.

Sewing Update

One of my main hobbies is sewing clothes. I love this as I enjoy vintage fashion but actual vintage tends to be very tiny sizes and very expensive. Also seeing how things go together interests me. And I can make things with pockets. Women want pockets too! 

This year I have made:

Dark green jersey wrap front dress. (I like it but it is a bit gapey at the neck)
Striped jersey raglan sleeve top (failure as looks terrible and cheapy fabric)
Black vintage satin midi skirt (so beautiful but no idea when I'll wear it)
Blanket coat in blue check mohair (wearing this constantly, so warm)
Black and white 50s sheath dress (smart except for bodgy zip)
Grey jersey 50s wiggle dress (so chuffed with this)
Tartan pyjama trousers (always good especially for xmas)
Check summer dress (for when it was briefly insanely hot. I seem to like checks)
Thai silk summer dress (lovely vintage fabric but frays unbelievably)
40s tartan day dress (inspired by Agent Carter, love this one, pictured below)

Mostly I like sewing 40s and 50s style clothing but in more modern fabrics so they are wearable without looking like I am part of some lifelong reenactment project.  

This is my skirt in 50s vintage embroidered satin, which is an exception. 

And here are my pyjama trousers which I finished yesterday.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Drawing at the Mews

On Saturday I went to a horse drawing workshop at the Royal Mews given by equestrian artist Jennifer Bell. We learned the basics of drawing the horse anatomy and then headed out to the stables to draw from life. I like this picture as it catches the personality of the horse who seems a bit bored and exasperated by all the public attention. I have always loved horses and drew them constantly as a child. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Refresh your Look

Sometimes you are in a time of change. And as well as doing new things it is a great time to look at yourself. 
Try a visual reboot:

You may be older and want to look more sophisticated but it's still a good time to try new things, shopping in new places, try some things that are in fashion. Try shopping with different people. Experiment with new looks using second hand or cheap clothes before committing. I have spent years in a vintage, librarian chic mode but am trying to find vintage looks that are more interesting and less girly. Try new colours, choose ones that suit you rather than just colours you abstractly like. Avoid novelty prints, cute things, frills and other youthful stuff. Try more unusual fabrics and shapes, indulge yourself with a glamorous look or one with a strong attitude. Take stuff from the back of the wardrobe and wear it again in different combos. Purge anything you don't wear anymore or that is wrong for you. Try altering or dyeing clothes to renew them. 

Review your make-up, the current look is all about a strong brow. Eyeshadows should be matte as you get older but try a strong lipstick, maybe matte also. Nail polish can be fun in a dark or in offbeat colours like greys, browns, metallics.

Have you changed your look or bought anything new lately? 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Alternative London Highlights

A list of the most interesting or unusual to contrast with the earlier list:

Restaurant: Mosob in Notting Hill. An Eritraean restaurant where everything is eaten from a springy flatbread used as cutlery too.

Museum: Sutton House in Hackney. A lovely building in a beautiful historic area in an Untouristy area of London.

Tour: a psychogeography walk in Kensington Gardens, including sensory activities, barefoot walking and poetry reading.

Religious site: The Buddhist Stupa in Battersea Park. Giant golden buddhas by the river.

Journey: a nontourist journey to Piccadilly Circus on the 94 bus. A great way to see the city.

Bar: Little Nan's in Deptford, a parlour style bar full of weird nicknacks with cocktails served from teapots.

Historic site: The abandoned tube station of The Strand.

Famous person spotted: Helena Bonham Carter in Hampstead.

Shopping: the occult bookshops of London, list available online. Some cheery with crystals and comfy sofas, some creepy with paintings of Alastair Crowley and weird noises from the basement. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Lost London

Sometimes you come across a remnant of something from earlier London. It could be the Roman walls in Aldgate or the amphitheatre under the Guildhall. This is the York House Watergate by the Strand.
The watergate would have been a grand entrance, by boat, to the river Thames. It was built in 1626 for George Villiers the Duke of Buckingham. Sadly both his grand home and the water are now long gone and the watergate stands in Embankment Gardens, a reminder of when the River, not the road, was the centre of the city.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Ravenscourt Park Tree

I really wanted to draw an autumn tree today. I got in a bit if an inking frenzy with this and somehow instead of peaceful autumn I got slightly apocalyptic autumn. I think it's the yellow.
I like Ravenscourt Park for walking, there is also a peaceful walled garden with a sundial, and today, a white cat. We came back through Bedford Park which is a beautiful area of red brick arts and crafts houses and plane trees.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bonus London Favourites Post

Thinking back over the last year today; a year since we moved to Chiswick and slightly longer since we moved to London. Some of my favourite things this year:

Best exhibitions:
Perfume at Somerset House; weird yet fun exhibition in which you go round a series of themed rooms, sniffing perfumed bags in random places and noting down what they smell of. Bizarre but magical experience.
Honourable mention: Matisse at Royal Academy; I love Matisse and his paintings were displayed with his actual possessions which inspired him, great to see how an artist actually worked.

Best Art Gallery:
Courtauld Gallery; small but perfectly formed and every picture is a star. All killer no filler as they say.

Best Restaurant: 
Cinnamon Club; a beautiful, sophisticated Indian restaurant in an old library in Westminster. The food is heaven, so good I bought the cookbook.
Honourable mention: La Trompette, Chiswick; a very elegant Michelin star restaurant on our road. Amazing game dishes and beautiful desserts.
Best Museum:
Always the V&A; Still not seen it all after umpteen visits. Full of beautiful things and a lovely courtyard and cafe. They even have a Leonardo da Vinci notebook.

Best Church:
St Bartholomew the Greater; An ancient church, full of atmosphere, tucked away behind a medieval gateway and an enclosed churchyard. 
Honourable mention: St Magnus the Martyr with the gigantic London Bridge model; crammed with tiny figures it is fascinating and delightful.

Best Walk/Explore:
Spitalfields; from posh shops in a historic market to c18th neighbourhood with Hawksmoor church and  African fabric shops on Dickensian streets, all life is here.
Honourable mention to Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market, a fascinating area, full of history and foodies.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

St Pancras

As part of my Victorian stations series I bring you the biggest and best; St Pancras. Saved from demolition in the 1960s and then miraculously restored and brought back to life. Featuring in many films etc including a Spice Girls video, The Secret Garden and I believe, Harry Potter. Can anyone think of others?
This drawing took me three sessions of work and I had to cut and stick the paper four times as the drawing kept expanding over the edge. Note, buy bigger paper. Annoyingly the clock tower would not quite fit on. I am very pleased with it though.
I am now pondering other difficult buildings to draw, the obvious one being the Houses of Parliament. Suggestions welcome!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Autumn View

Autumn is a great time to paint, everything is full of gorgeous golden colours. It is also my favourite time of year with crispy leaves everywhere, cold blue skies and hearty food.
This is another in the back of houses series. If you lean out of my bedroom window and look left you can see this. The red vine is gradually taking over the neighbourhood. The house fronts onto Chiswick High Road and is a chiropractors and exercise studio.
On a more general note, I have completed my target of visiting fifty museums and galleries while in London and hope to squeeze in a few historic houses too.
Inspired by the themed dinners with me and Leen, And having more time now, I am also starting on two new cooking projects: Slow Cooker Sunday (Eastern European food) and Indian dinner where I am trying to master curries.
I must start sewing again too, I have some grey jersey material for a tasteful winter dress.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Interior Challenge

My friend Anna challenged me to paint an interior! This is the Queen's Gallery, part of Buckingham Palace. The gallery is good to paint as the decoration is very bold with fabric covered walls, black marble skirtings and gothic ceilings like being under a giant wedding cake. The paintings are Caletto's views of Rome which I had not seen before.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Aviation Art

Following our visit to the aviation artists display at the Mall Gallery we had a mutual challenge. Alistair would build a model of my choosing and I would do a painting of it. Planes are difficult, although I like the colours and the sky. The plane is a WW1 Fokker Eindecker.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Typical Townhouse

One of my favourite areas of London is the back streets around St James' Park. In between the colossal government buildings are surviving London townhouses from the C18th. This is the typical layout with a railinged basement, the largest windows on the first floor. The colours of brick vary and some are stuccoed to resemble royal icing. Some like this look like two rooms on each floor. To visit one go to Chelsea where you can enjoy the atmospheric Carlyle's House or in Kensington 18 Stafford Terrace. Both are wonderfully unchanged. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

General Doings

I have a glut of tomatoes from the plants on my balcony. Tomatoes are one of my favourite things to draw; the bold colours, simple shapes and spiky er stem bits. These look a bit deflated which is my bad drawing.
In other news the weather has definitely turned to Autumn, which I quite like, it is one of my favourite seasons. 
I am refreshing my autumn wardrobe with more black, a fake leather jacket and a beige mac which makes me look like that woman in Allo Allo. But in a good way. I am trying for a new look which is more sophisticated and darker in tones. Trawling the many charity shops in posh areas where the good stuff is to be found. 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Victorian City

One of my great architectural loves are old train stations. Especially if a bit past their days of glory; sooty, shambolic and chaotic warrens of crowds, pigeons and unexpected beauty.
This is Victoria station built by the Southern Railway Company. A great station of London although blighted by buses, fast food outlets and discarded newspapers. In a gloriously pretentious French Renaissance style and flanked by the equally French and impressive London Chatham Railway terminus and the colossal Grosvenor Hotel. The station was built in 1860 and rebuilt in 1898. Victoria was the main station for trains to Europe until the development of Eurostar and the Orient Express still departs from here. The station is where the hero in The Importance of Being Earnest was discovered and is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
An obsessive drawing in crabby permanent marker for speed, with ink over.
I may do a series of drawings of London's great train termini.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Bladerunner City

This turned out a lot more apocalyptic than I was planning. The view is the city of London from the south bank near Tower Bridge. I was there to visit the Sherd, also a very futuristic experience.
The skyscrapers are all named after household gadgets; left to right The Walkytalky, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin. These are not their official names of course...
When we first moved to London we stayed near the Gherkin (or Swiss Re building). Actually swiss re sounds like a kind of cheese so that is no better really. It was a very surreal experience as it was right opposite the living room window like a giant spaceship.
There is a lot of wet on wet ink here and it is even more monochrome. Actually the view is very attractive. Many cranes as London is being endlessly demolished and rebuilt in an urban chaos which is quite exciting.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Embankment Magnolia

I love the exotic gardens along the Embankment by the Thames where I saw this giant magnolia. Appropriately we were on our way back from the Perfume exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery.
This is an effort in ink wash only, no pen, no outlines, no drawing. I like the colours.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Apples of Acton

Apples from an aged tree drying in Leen's garage in Acton. They are wonderfully huge and uneven. We had fun shaking them from the tree with a hoe on a pole and trying to dodge as they crashed down. Also, does anyone have any recipes for cooking apples, especially savoury recipes?
Art wise I am still obsessed by Japanese art, trying to use inks in increasingly bold and simple ways. I concentrated on the shadows and used a lot of wet on wet for the chaotic look I love. I really love this which actually turned out how I imagined, a rare moment in art.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Beautiful Balenciaga

Today I went to the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A. Really loved it as I am a huge fan of 1950s couture. Pleasingly many of the dresses were in curvy sizes and featured gorgeous fabrics and details. I felt quite inspired for my sewing.
Also a top gallery of very conceptual dresses which were really fun. 
I liked the back of this dress. The drawing is ink and inspired by the famous fashion illustrator Rene Gruau. Quite pleased with this, might try some more fashion pictures.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


One of my favourite places in London; Richmond Palace in Richmond. We were a bit early for the cinema (Spiderman Homecoming) so had a lovely walk along the river with all the colourful boats and up the palace's back lane with the high brick walls, through the palace courtyard to the village green.
It is one of the loveliest places in London. This tudor gatehouse of the palace is also one of my fantasy homes. I must explore more in the back streets of Richmond, there are some interesting old churches.
Trying to do perspective and bolder colours and shadow here but not sure how I like this. Brick should be more red and maybe more detail and texture.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Green Tomatoes

Trying out a haiga, which combines an illustration with a seventeen syllable haiku poem. Thought this might be a fun way to combine drawing and poetry. I bought lots of coloured inks to experiment with from the art shop. This is black and two shades of green. I was trying to improve my composition and the light and shade too. My tomatoes are coming on well but not ripening yet and it rained heavily on them today.
I have been gradually getting back into art over several years and trying to develop. My tips for this include: try a new medium, try using a bigger scale, try going mono for a while, don't be afraid of failure or of messiness, look at other art a lot, try new subjects. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The backs of things

Another back of house project. This is Sutton House, an Elizabethan house in Hackney. A wonderful house in a fascinating area of London.
Stylewise I like the atmosphere of a gloomy children's book illustration which could be from the victorian books I enjoyed as a kid. Using crosshatching and ink washes here to get lots of colour and texture. Like this technique, might have to buy more inks.

Saturday, 8 July 2017


I drew a pineapple. I am keen on mono ink drawing at the moment. Pineapples are fun to draw as they seem to be everywhere decoatively at the mo and have lots of interesting detail.
This also alludes to my keenness on summer cocktails. Today pina colada, made with fresh pineapple. Yesterday watermelon dacquiri made with fresh watermelon. For a dacquiri, liquidise fruit and mix with the juice of one lime and two measures of white rum. Delicious in the heat we are enjoying in London.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Curtain Street

Curtain Street in Shoreditch. An attractive group of three c18th and c19th buildings surviving on a huge building site. Fun to draw in messy ink with their grungy personalities and little details.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Vintage Joys

It is no secret that I love vintage clothes. From the ogling of displays in the V&A to my local charity shop. And finally I have found in London a contender to rival the fabulous Armstrong's Vintage in Edinburgh. 
Paper Dress Vintage is a small but perfectly formed shop in Hackney, East London. It has a small but perfectly formed collection of vintage from the 30s to the 70s. I am so sick of vintage shops that only stock 80s and 90s stuff or badly madeover things at elevated prices. The prices range from about £30 to about £150 but this is the real deal, gorgeous vintage dresses from slinky Thirties evening wear to outrageous 70s chiffon caftans. Nothing is sized because vintage sizes are totally different so you have to eyeball and then try on. A lot was too small for me, but not all! Things in larger sizes included a purple 50s wiggle dress (came home with me) a 60s navy designer dress with back buttons and a 60s  green and purple dress in a mindbending print.
Other good vintage destinations include the fabulous Hammersmith Vintage Fair (superluxe) Notting Hill has some great vintage and designer vintage and I want to check out a wee shop Circa Vintage in Fulham. Charity shops in London are brilliant for modern second hand and many specialise in posh brands and designer. I also want to check out some vintage repro shops such as the famous What Katy Did, purveyors of historical style underwear. 
Places to avoid include Camden Market, reams of overpriced tat, relieved only by some passable menswear and vintage shops in touristy areas which can be tacky and overpriced.
The search goes on...

Friday, 30 June 2017

French Lavender

I got some of the french lavender with the weird thistly heads after admiring it in Leen's back garden. I like the strange shapes. I am inspired by the drawings in the Japanese art series currently on TV and by some great monochrome prints of plants I saw in the Royal Academy annual exhibition.
It is ironic that this is a plant drawing as I currently have terrible hayfever but I think it is from the trees.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Balcony Update

As I was super busy this weekend, here is a filler post until I paint something. I am very pleased with my balcony at the mo, with this Provence style flower group of sunflowers, lavender and 'misc climbers'. It didn't specify on the seed packet but they look like weeds to me.
My tomato plants are fruiting, one fruit is turning red, and I have basil seedlings. The formerly bleak, claustrophobic, concretey, balcony is now summery and lovely and you can sit out on it with a drink while nervously watching for ants and spiders.
Once these flowers are over I might need to pop out to the teeny garden centre by the station for some more colourful things...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Artists at Home

Today we went to the Artists at Home in Chiswick. It is worth looking out for these fantastic free events where you can visit artists homes or studios and chat to them about their work. Highly recommended for art enthusuasts or just if you like seeing other people's homes and gardens. 
The one I enjoyed most was the sculptor and life drawing artist Michael French. He lives on the ground floor of this fascinating old house in a wonderfully bohemian studio of tatty decor, antique furniture and life sculpture overlooking a jungly garden. Such a lovely bloke he talked to us for ages about his work, his inspirations and even where to find good art classes.
The homes of artists are always really interesting and full of inspiration. 

Monday, 12 June 2017


An experimental work here, with coloured ink. Trying to go bolder with colour and line. These nasturtiums are growing in a pot on my balcony. I am obsessed with their round leaves and vivid orange flowers and wibbly stems. They are also so easy to grow from seed, an ideal plant.
Balcony is looking good at the mo with these, sunflowers, bright blue borage flowers and my tomato and strawberry plants are doing well.
I am giving up on the back garden in that just when it was getting better two handymen came along and ripped out all the plants, good and bad, and then just left the bits strewn everywhere. Let's just say they won't be appearing on Gardener's World any time soon.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Van Gogh ish

I grew a tiny sunflower on my balcony. It's rather wibbly and shrivelled appearance looked fun to draw. I used my new bamboo dip pen I bought from my favourite art shop when we were in Paris. It makes a lovely variable, flowing, chaotic line. Really fun to draw with. This is also from life which I think always improves the results. My aim is to get the personality of what I am painting rather than the accuracy. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hammersmith Rooftops

Another for the backs of houses series. I enjoy seeing the massing of building, extensions, alterations, and gardens from the tube train. London is a densely packed city and every inch from basement to sttic is used. Balconies jut out almost to the thundering trains themselves and drilling and hammering announces yet more 'improvement in square footage'.
This view though could almost be Victorian with its red brick, chimney pots and laburnum tree.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Balcony Garden

A brief update on my balcony garden and back garden projects.

On the balcony the fern looks fantastic and grew a new batch of fronds. The sunflowers are budding although they are only a foot high and the borage and nasturtiums are growing fast. The strawberry plants look good and are flowering. The herbs, apart from the sage which went mouldy, are growing strongly. The succulents love the heat and I never water them.

On the minus side the mini salads are feeble, it may be too warm for them. I may replace them with some more strawberries or something.  The tomato is growing well but the flowers keep falling off. Generally I can see greenery and am enjoying the project so that's all good. Pots need lots of watering.

In the back garden the giant boston ivy vine is coming back rampantly and will subsume everything. Two shrubs are doing well, the one in the planter is weak and something seems to be eating anything I put in there. I am amazed any slugs or whatever survive back there it is so dry and concretey. So a mixed success in a very difficult area.

Gardening is both easier and more difficult than you think. Growing vigorous plants from seed or buying and growing small plants in a good area is fine. Trying to grow food or plant an unpromising area is difficult. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pen Portraits

This week I went to an exhibition of modern portraits at the Mall Gallery. Aside from the usual smug families and bloated plutocrats there were some great pictures which really captured personality. So I thought I would try a portrait based on a photo of a girl in interestingly huge glasses I took on the tube.
I was really pleased with the graphic look of this. 

Friday, 12 May 2017


I love drawing Brutalist buildings. This carpark in Shoreditch is a landmark at the meeting of several streets north of Liverpool Street Station. It is refreshingly ugly and gritty in an area of trendy bars. I go wargaming in a Pizza Express just over the road where the basement smells of drains. This is a very vibrant area at night, a mixture of slick office buildings, old warehouses and hipster eateries.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

In Chiswick

Afton House dates from the late C18th and was one of the grander houses in Chiswick. As the pressure on land grew in the C19th and mansions were gobbled up by urban sprawl it became a school and then a laundry. It is now the Chiswick Memorial Club where the local history society meet. Due to poor planning development it is not visible from the main road anymore as modern shops were built right in front of it where the garden used to be. However it can be seen from a small side road by the library.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Street Fashion: Bank Station

I love people watching. Both these women spotted in Bank tube station. Bold colour combos sported here.  The purple suede thigh boots are a frequent fashion item I see a lot, What do you think, fabulous or tarty? The other in orange leather ankle boots. I love boots. Another great pair I hankered after were red suede knee boots with gold metallic cube heels. Amazing. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Out of the Box

One of the things about living in, rather than visiting London is that you can go to obscure places. When I visited I never got much beyond the centre and it's famous and crammed attractions.
Here are some recommends from further out:

Dulwich is a lovely area with gorgeous parks, visit the tiny Dulwich Art Gallery with wonderful collection and posh glassy modern cafe, then go on to the Horniman Museum to see natural history, musical instruments and an aquarium.

Highgate is a delightful village with a village green and pretty shops, head towards the famous Cemetery for a tour or to see the graves of Douglas Adams and Karl Marx. Houses in Highgate below.

Hampstead is a very old spot with fascinating buildings. Wander the lanes of the town for a bit and pop into the little museum and cafe then get the bus up the hill to the heath and Kenwood House with its art and landscaped grounds.

Chelsea is vibrant, glamorous area a bit closer into London. Start at Sloane Square and visit the Saatchi Gallery for controversial modern art then head towards the river for Carlyle's House, a small evocative and thought provoking home with a perfect walled garden.

Chiswick, biased because I live there, makes a great day out. Head along the high street lined with bookshops and delis, to Chiswick House with its classical gardens, next door is the house of the painter Hogarth, now a small gallery and down to the old village by the waterside. There are historic pubs and a brewery too. 

And my final spot is Kensington High Street. Explore the giant church and back lanes with boutiques, the Design Museum and ruins of Holland Park House then head on to the magical Leighton House, the exotic art studios of a famous victorian painter.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cutaway Architecture

Obsessive cutaway in pen and watercolour. Can you guess where it is?

Weird Fern

The fern on my balcony is growing new fronds for spring and they are really weird. Hairy, spirally, fractally, stems. Ferns are apparently very ancient plants. They have no flowers because flowers came later and the seeds grow underneath the leaves instead.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tube fashions

Seen from the tube. I love people watching and like to see what people wear. This gent was very smart but in hugely eccentric colours! Love it.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Summer in April

Yes, this week summer arrived. Or maybe this is spring in London, but by Aberdeen standards it is summer with 20C heat and sun. It's fantastic.
I also discovered I don't have many summer clothes, as this is not a thing we enjoy in Aberdeen. I got a bit big for all my old summer dresses and buzzed them out, leaving me with one self made one in polycotton and several jersey dresses which are more all season. 
So I bought some pink and blue madras fabric to make a dress. Also stocking up on light cardis and tshirts. We have fantastic oxfam shops here which takes you out of your comfort zone. You have to buy what they have. In Chiswick women like a slightly bohemian look with embellished tops, unusual fabrics and patterns. There are lots of boutiques selling scandinavian type fashions with loose shapes and arty jewellery.
Stylewise I am evolving too into darker or subtler variants of my fabourite colours, such as navy, burgundy, dull pink, aqua, khaki greens. I have been on several shopping trips with my stepmum Ying, it is interesting to see what other people like. She loves red and a more blingy modern casual look than me. 
I love the sudden summer although I got sunburn through my tights! The tights are off today which feels good. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Carlyle in Chelsea

This is another picture for my backs of houses series. This is the back of the C18th Carlyle's House in Chelsea, which I visited with Leen. The house is unchanged since he lived there and so peaceful with a small walled garden. 
I had not really heard of Thomas Carlyle before so found out more in the excellent book Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage by Rosemary Ashton. 
Thomas came from Dumfriesshire and went to the same school as Alistair! He was an extremely famous literary personality, historian and social commentator in the C19th. He was a critic of modern capitalist, industrial life but as he grew older became more reactionary with some very conservative and racist writings which have tarnished his reputation. 
Jane and he had a long and tumultous marriage. He was self obsessed and grumpy and she was self pitying and a hypochondriac, but they both had brilliant minds and somehow it mostly worked. Together they entertained all the great minds of the Victorian age in their modest house from Charlotte Bronte to Darwin.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Super Seedlings

At the moment I am really enjoying growing plants from seed for my balcony. Most of the seedlings are doing well, but I have some science based queries and observations.

One of the sunflowers has three leaves instead of two, is this a cell division thing?
Why does the nasturtium not produce the plain 'baby leaves'?
Why do plants make plain 'baby leaves' before they make their distinctive leaves?
Why are seeds such different sizes, from giant sunflowers down to speck like mint?

Answers appreciated for budding (groans) plant scientist.

Friday, 17 March 2017

London Backyard

This is the house opposite my bedroom window. I wish they would make more effort with the back yard. 
London house are interesting because they often look quite orderly at the front and break up into a chaos of extensions, divisions, plumbing, varied windows doors and balconies at the back. This is generally because they are divided into many tiny flats. 
This one is probably a house and a flat and unusually has no roof extensions. Sometimes it all gets a bit Rear Window and I like to watch for people pottering about behind the windows opposite.
I actually quite like painting architecture which is not pretty.  

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Spring on the Balcony

Most of the colour on my balcony currently comes from this pot of hyacinths. I love spring bulbs. But I have also started my balcony food project by planting spinach and radishes in tubs and starting off edible flowers, sunflowers and mint in pots on a table by the window. I have grown herbs but not food before so am very excited.
My balcony is about one metre by three metres so is very small and is surrounded by a six foot wall, but it is my first outdoor space and I want it to be green and peaceful in the middle of this big dirty city. It has a patio door that opens into the living area which will be fantastic if we have a nice summer. I fantasise about drinking wine surrounded by plants.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Eat Eritrea

I think this might form part of my series of reading/ research into Africa.
Last night we met up with friends to go to Mosob Eritrean restaurant in Notting Hill. It is a lovely friendly place and mosobs (pictured above) abound. They are like a basket tagine, which is placed over the food. The food is eaten communaly from large dishes lined with flatbreads. The flatbreads are like huge thin crumpets and are also used to eat the food. You tear off a bit and use it to pick up the food. It is so good to eat without cutlery! I don't really like cutlery.
We had a starter of hummous with vegetables, flatbreads with spinach stuffing, spice dip and cottage cheese dip. Main course was beef stew with okra, chicken with spinach and a salad of chopped lettuce and tomato. It was delicious and unlike anything I had had before.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

London's Churches

One of my first projects when I came to London was looking at Churches. As we were staying in Aldgate this was the heart of early London with many interesting early buildings. Some of my favourites were St Katharine Cree, St Andrew Undershaft (next to the old maypole) and St Olave Hart St where Samuel Pepys was buried. These are all wonderfully atmospheric churches with ancient tombs, sculpture and stained glass. My favourite is by the river; St Magnus Martyr, dedicated to a Viking saint, with roman remains and an enormous model of the old London Bridge, densely populated with tiny figures of people and animals. All Hallows by the Tower is also fascinating mainly because of the ancient crypt full of cryptic (groans) monuments and archaeology. St Martin Ludgate near St Paul's is a wonderful Wren church with stunning woodwork and unusual old furniture. I went to more Wren churches than you can shake a stick at. Many served as the homes of craftsmen's guilds and feature displays of tools or shoes or crafts.

Over the Thames, I found Southwark Cathedral, a wonderful and important building hemmed in by railways and markets and well off the tourist trail, but peaceful and beautiful.
The most impressive and atmospheric of all is St Bartholomew the Great. This unfathomably ancient and gloomy building tucked away behind a half timbered entry (pictured) was part of an early monastery and hospital. The hospital is still extant. It has limited opening hours and an entry fee though.

As to more recent churches, I loved St Mary Abbot in Kensington with fascinating monuments (so many stories) a pretty churchyard and peaceful cloister, surrounded by tiny lanes of quirky shops.
The most mindboggling of all is Westminster Cathedral, a Venetian inspired giant on Victoria Road crammed with gold mosaics. A very kind priest gave me a personal tour which was one of my best church experiences. The worst was a damp crypt lined with coffin plaques and with a repellent, strange smell. I will keep exploring.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Interview at Kew

This is Kew Palace in the world famous Kew Gardens. I had an interview for a job here last week.
Kew was the favoured home of the modest, intelligent but sometimes mad George III. The gardens are some of the most fabulous in the world, it is an amazing place. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Voysey Factory

Tucked away down a back lane in Chiswick is one of the most interesting and remarkable buildings in the UK. This is the Sanderson wallpaper factory designed by Voysey in 1901. It is created in white tiling and is both wonderfully Arts and Crafts and stunningly modern. Voysey is often heralded as a pioneer of modern architecture. He did not agree, but this amazing building looks both modern and oddly traditional to me.
I think of Voysey as the Charles Rennie Mackintosh of England. Similarly, he built very little and designed in may different disciplines, but what he did create was beautiful and groundbreaking.