Messing about in the sun

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!

34 comments

  1. I really must visit the Museum of London! I love the sound of the Victorian walkway and the Dorothy Whipple heroine comparison.

    I think I have mentioned on one of your previous London tourist posts that there is such a wealth of truly precious things to discover in London that some of them will remain unearthed during a lifetime.

    Saturday was a scorcher and I spent it with my precious baby cousin and her paddling pool. Raspberry pavlova is my favourite dessert and I will have to attempt the Nigella recipe – well done!

    P.S. Um, which book did you liberate from the book tower?!

    1. Claire I know you would love the Museum – you must go! That’s so true – everytime I go on a tourist day I am reminded of how little I really know about London, and how much more there is to see!

      Oh lovely – babies make summer so much more fun – they are the perfect excuse to splash in paddling pools and blow bubbles and play hide and seek! Thanks – it really was delicious, and so easy to make. I want another one actually – maybe this weekend as I already have the ingredients!

      Oh Claire, I wish I could say it was just one. The shame…but it wasn’t stealing. It was rescuing.

      I rescued…wait for it…(viragos) Her Son’s Wife by Dorothy Canfield and Jenny Wren by E H Young (orange penguins) Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge (x2), Cheri and the Last of Cheri by Colette, Noblesse Oblige by Nancy Mitford, The New House by Lettice Cooper and Tea with Mr Rochester by Frances Towers. Also maybe some more on subsequent visits, but I couldn’t comment. It’s like the biggest second hand book shop filled with middlebrow literature that you’re not allowed to buy EVER and I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t walk on by!!!

      1. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t have left those either! You HAD to rescue them; they would have tempted you for weeks otherwise.

        Ahem, are either of those Penguin Illyrian Springs looking for a permanent home? It is so rare and I’ve been desperate to read it since your review!

    2. I already gave one away and I know it is selfish of me to keep the other…send me an email reminding me of your address and it’s yours! It is a bit tatty I will warn you!

      1. That is such an amazing list of books – lucky lucky you! And lucky Claire getting Illyrian Spring.

        Sounds like another fantastic day. It’s decades since I’ve been to the museum of london – they certainly didn’t have a teashop (and I probably wouldn’t have been interested in that aged 6!).

        Really not sure about the chocolate pavlova; I did make meringues this last weekend but we had them plain and unadultered with some fruit.

      2. Verity I was very lucky indeed – and there are still so many more gems in there I would happily rescue!

        They do have a cafe now but it’s not fantastic if I’m honest. That’s the one thing that lets them down. However I never eat in museum cafes anyway as they are overpriced and the food isn’t exactly anything to write home about.

        Oh it was divine! You put chocolate chunks in and they go all gooey and the cocoa powder gives it a wonderful, gooey chewy consistency. You should give it a go!

      3. Rachel, why don’t I pass my copy on to Claire now that I’ve read it and then you can keep yours as I know you loved it more than I did … much better to keep it in circulation than sitting on my shelf! (I’m still dying to know how you carried out your raid!)

      4. Oooh good idea Mary! Let me email you and we’ll sort it out.

        Ha! It involved an innocent expression and a very large bag.🙂

  2. I have never been to London, but it is a favorite place to visit for my niece.

    I loved seeing the photos and reading what you had to say; thanks so much

  3. So much in this post, I don’t know what to comment on first! What a lovely day – we must visit the Museum of London next time. My daughter just found out she will doing a study abroad program in London next spring, so we certainly hope to visit while she is there!
    The cake is gorgeous… and just looking at the little guy makes me smile🙂

    1. Hehe! It was a lovely day indeed – you should definitely make a beeline for The Museum of London when you come next. How exciting that your daughter will spend some time here! I wish I had the chance to study abroad when I was at university.

      They make me smile too! They’re such cherubs!

  4. Great post! Loved the West Ham banner. I was born and raised in East Ham and to us West Ham was just a football team. In the 1960s there was a misguided attempt to combine them into “New Ham” (I actually have some childhood school certificates with “New Ham” on them), but East is East and West is West, and ne’er the twain shall meet, etc.

    1. Thanks Deb! How funny! I can’t say I’ve ever been to either West Ham or East Ham but I can imagine people not being too pleased being squished together under one name!

  5. I love narrow boats and the patterns on them, but I hadn’t thought about their lack of bookspace!
    The museum looks SO interesting. If we ever get round to our London visit, we MUST visit there, though I’d have the same reaction as you to the Blitz stories…
    I remember in the 70s therre was a series of adverts for Sanderson fabrics and wallpapers, featuring famous people sitting in rooms furnished by Sanderson. The captions read, ‘Very (celebrity’s name). Very Sanderson.’ I loved them!
    And what sweet tinies!

    1. Aren’t they gorgeous? But yes – so little storage! Certainly not for us book hoarders!

      You MUST come to London and go to the museum. You’ll have to stay for at least a fornight with all the places I would insist you visit, though!

      Yes they had those adverts in there – it was interesting to see a Hollywood celebrity (I forget which one) in her LA beach house surrounded by chintz!

  6. Thank you for the London adventure that I just took in my robe with a cup of tea on a gloomy, humid summer morn. I’ve not yet been to London, but, when I make it there, Rachel, I know I will want to visit the Museum of London.

    Your treasures are treasures indeed and I do believe they have the best auntie in the whole wide world. Will they become avid readers like you? My guess is yes, yes, yes.

    It seems it is a hot there in London as it is here near Chicago. I wish I had a kiddie pool to splash around in. Instead, I’ll reread your post and imagine all the wonders you experienced. Oh, my, I would love to visit on one of the narrowboats and the Vietnamese coffee sounded interesting. Fun post.

    1. You are so welcome, Penny! I know many people who read my blog live far from London and just as I like to see photos of other people’s towns and cities across the world, I enjoy showing off a little of what London has to offer from time to time.🙂 I hope you make it to London soon – there is so much to see and do, especially outside of the usual tourist traps. It makes me so sad to see tourists just hanging around the horrid parts of London like Leicester Square when just a few minutes’ walk away they could be in the peace of Green Park or exploring the quiet squares of Bloomsbury.

      Oh thank you Penny! I try my best to be a good auntie and give my little men lots of hugs and cuddles and stories. George LOVES books and I am always buying them for him so I hope he will grow up to be an avid reader. It’s a little young to tell for Freddie as he can’t even talk yet!

      It was around 30degrees centigrade here at the weekend which is sweltering for us Brits! It’s now a lot cooler as we’ve had a good deal of rain but still muggy. I’m glad this post has entertained you so much, it’s a pleasure to write for such readers as you!

  7. Thank you Rachel as you have given me some options for what to do next weekend when my little brother and sister (along with my Mum and step dad) come to stay. Sunday is very much booked for Thorpe Park – I have a feeling the youngsters will either love it or loathe it – and Saturday was a bit of a question mark now I think The Museum of London might have to get our attention. Especially as we have to keep my mother away from The British Museum (shes a classicist) and once in will not leave!

    1. I’m glad to be of service Simon! There is loads of stuff for kids at the Museum of London so that will be a good choice! Though make sure you bypass the Roman London section or your mum will never make it to the rest of the museum!

  8. I’ve lived in London for almost 20 years now and have only been inside St Paul’s once for a school commemoration service (or something like that). It’s such a beautiful place with so much history. I love doing tourist days in London as well because if you work here, you end up just commuting to work without appreciating your surroundings. Love your posts about it. And I must also go and visit the revamped Museum of London.

    And that chocolate pavlova looks divine!

    1. St Paul’s is just stunning! I am always overwhelmed whenever I go.

      Yes exactly – you end up taking it for granted and it’s good to stop and allow the beauty of London to soak in!

      You must go to the Museum of London, it is truly brilliant.

      It is a divine recipe – and so easy to make!

  9. Oooh, I’ll have to stop back into The Museum of London! R and I thoroughly enjoyed it when we visited in 2007 but the new exhibits make it sound even better!

    Thanks so much for bringing a slice of London…and chocolate pavlova! into my house today. The only downside is now I’ll be craving both reeeeaaaal bad.

    p.s. – Bless those chubby thighs on your nephew…how squeezable!

    1. Yes it’s much better than it was – it should definitely be top of your list for your next visit! I’m sorry I have caused pangs of longing…but hopefully it won’t be too much longer before you are back over this side of the pond!

      I know…he’s almost unbearable at the moment! So much cuteness!

  10. Aw, the boys are adorable. I can’t wait to be an aunt, although my sisters have unaccountably shown no inclination to present me with nieces and nephews. :p

    Your posts always make me miss London so much! Every time I visit London, I think of going to St. Paul’s, and then I don’t go because if I don’t go, I’ll have to come back to London another time. But I think next time I visit I really will go to St. Paul’s.

    1. Thank you, they are such precious little cherubs! Being an aunt is amazing – I’m lucky in that my sister is 7 years older than me and she started having babies relatively early so I’ve been an aunt since I was 20. I love having little babies around! You need to start dropping hints to those sisters of yours!

      I’m sorry! You should definitely go to St Paul’s, but at the same time, it’s always good to have a compelling reason to come back.🙂 Though there’s always a good reason to come back to London!

  11. Thanks for sharing photos–I would love to get back to London. I visited the Museum of London but that was years and years ago. Your nephews are cuties and the Pavlova looks yummy. All in all a lovely weekend it sounds like.

  12. Fantastic that you got to see more of the London museum. When we were there they were only up to the Fire of London, but even so it’s very good and quite intimate because thousands of people don’t flood it.

    And argh now I want chocolate pavlova – curses!

    1. It is brilliant. Unfortunately because of their rather out of the way location I don’t think they get half as many visitors as they deserve – hence why it tends to be a nicer experience as it’s never crowded.

      Mwa haha – it couldn’t easier to make – you could whip some up tonight!

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