I’ve had a lot of book reviews to catch up on of late so I haven’t had the opportunity to show you some pictures of other things I have been getting up to when I’m not reading or bemoaning the state of modern society! Another one of my London Tourist Days has come and gone, and so has a lovely sunny weekend involving adorable children and chocolate pavlova, so without further ado…
The intrepid Emma and I went on a tourist day the weekend before I swanned off to Greece, and we had a spectacular time. Emma lives in Hackney and so our day started with Vietnamese Chilled Coffee (made with condensed milk and DELICIOUS) at Broadway Market, followed by a pleasant stroll down the canal eating the previous night’s leftover pizza until we reached a bus stop that took us into the city. There were lots of lovely narrowboats down the canal, all of which appear to be permanently lived in by people preferring a gentler pace of life within the city. I had a brief moment of wishing I too had a narrow boat and could drift along gently through the byways of London rather than hurrying around on the highways, but I thought twice when Emma said, you can’t fit many books on a narrowboat. She’s not wrong.
Onwards…to the City!, where we planned to spend the morning at the newly revamped Museum of London. On our way we came across this rather incongruous looking Turkish Bathhouse, nestled in the churchyard of St Botolph’s and flanked on all sides by modern glass skyscrapers. It is now a decadent restaurant and entertainment venue – I shall have to drop in one night to find out more! We arrived at the Museum of London very excited, as the collections only went up to 1666 the last time we went. The new wing takes us from 1666 to the modern day, and to say it is spectacular is an understatement. Exploring the history of a city so old, diverse, sprawling and rich in culture and history as London is no easy task, but the Museum of London has really outdone itself. I felt like a little girl in a sweet shop, with so much delight in front of me at every corner! There is a Dickensian style Victorian Walk, where Victorian shop fronts have been reconstructed to show the type of wares available to the Victorian consumer – so much fun to pretend you are buying a corset and crinoline from a dressmaker’s! The front of a Lyon’s tea shop complete with fixtures and fittings has been installed, and I felt like a Dorothy Whipple heroine as I sat at one of the tea tables and imagined being served eggs and ham and a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon in 1930’s London. There was a tremendously moving documentary film playing about the effect of the Blitz on ordinary Londoners; I had to leave the room in tears at one point, as a now elderly woman described how she and her family had been saving their coupons for a special tea party for her sister, who was due to turn 21, but the night before her birthday their house was hit by a bomb, and even sixty years later she was choking back the tears as she said ‘but Mavis never made it to her party’. It really brought the reality of war home.
I particularly loved the section on the Suffragettes; the Museum has a fantastic collection of banners and other ephemera related to the movement and I felt so inspired by the photographs of these attractive, well dressed, well educated women who had risked everything to fight for the freedom to live an independent life. Finally, the Museum ends with a magnificent display of art work by present day Londoners, exploring their views of the city and what living here means to them. The bright, colourful, multicultural paintings and sculptures brought a lump to my throat as I thought of all the wonderful people living alongside each other that make London the amazing and vibrant city it is, despite the fires and floods and wars that have attempted to destroy it. Visiting the Museum made me proud to be a Londoner, born and bred, and I highly recommend you visit – it’s free!
After the Museum of London we wandered along to St Paul’s Cathedral, which we always enjoy visiting – when you’ve paid once, you get a whole year’s free entry on your ticket, so we like to make the most of it! As usual there were spectacular views across the city and I managed to spot quite a few landmarks, such as the Tate Modern.
After this, we headed off to the Fashion and Textile Museum. Neither of us had been before and I must say I was a bit disappointed as I thought they had a permanent collection as well as an exhibition space, but it’s just an exhibition space. No matter – we saw the fascinating ‘Very Sanderson: 150 years of British Interior Design’ exhibition, which, in exploring the archives of this famous textile company, also explored the ever changing taste in British interior design, from the Edwardian period to the present day. There were the most beautiful 1930’s chintzes juxtaposed with the bright, eye popping abstract prints of the 60’s and 70’s, as well as Victorian William Morris designs and 1980’s fussy florals. Known for its quality and expense, it’s not just anybody who can afford to deck out their home in Sanderson, but nevertheless, I was enlightened and inspired by the attractive displays and the demonstration of how tastes have changed over time. What I found most interesting was how in the 1970’s and 80’s there was a desire to recreate Victorian and Edwardian interior design, demonstrating that in times of financial uncertainty, such as today, we tend to reach back to the past for our inspiration, finding within it that sweet blend of comforting nostalgia and security. According to Sanderson, currently chintzses and ‘vintage’ designs are back in, and the sleek, cold lines of modernist designs are out. This would again suggest a collective reaching for the comfort blanket of an idealised past, as our financial markets have taken a tumble and our job security sits on rocky ground. Our homes are our havens from the outside world, after all. The Museum’s new exhibition is Horrockses’ Fashions: Off the Peg style in the 40’s and 50’s, which I am desperate to see, especially as I managed to snag some beautiful reproduction Horrockses’ fabric used to make this dress from the V&A sample sale last week and I can’t wait to make something from it!
This past weekend was spent in the garden, and it was a scorcher. Out came the paddling pool and the sunloungers, and we all had great fun splashing around. It was my sister’s 31st birthday and she requested not just any birthday cake, but a chocolate pavlova. Nigella came up trumps as usual, and my sous chef Georgie and I used this recipe to make it, though I halved the ingredients as I didn’t need one that big. It was absolutely delicious and went down a treat with the raspberries my brother’s girlfriend and I went to pick at nearby Stonepitt’s Farm especially for the purpose.
And I couldn’t leave you without photos of my little treasures. They get cuter every day!