Monday, 29 March 2010

There she goes......

It's a late late night .... 2am and i'm spending my last night in the flat that has been home for the last 2 years. Already looking alien as things are gathered together and piled up waiting for the removal men to arrive.... i thought i'd pause before sleep and capture the moment. 

I'm not sad to be leaving here .... it was a home that was always temporary so i've never rooted fully ... too small to entertain, and with funny neighbours i never overcame the temporary feeling ...  also i think i know now that i am indeed a north london girl. I move back 'home' tomorrow to NW3 - next to Hampstead Heath - where i've lived so happily before. It feels like i'm moving home. 

It's exciting .... and as i'm moving into a bigger space - i can for the first time since i went away to live in Africa 8 years ago - gather back all of my belongings and bring them under one roof. I'm almost as excited about getting all of my books and things - as i am about moving into a bigger space... 

I started my new job last Monday ... and tomorrow move to my new home... 

This is all going to make the next months with Dad so much more bearable.... 

I hope your spring feeling is emerging - it feels as though hope is rising up...

A la prochaine xxx

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sunday 14th March ....

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.  ~Jewish Proverb

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Luxury ...

"Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing. "                 
 — Dodie Smith

Life has a funny rhythm for me at the moment - being someone who loves to hang out and spend time with my friends - i'm not seeing much of them. My weekdays are dominated by work and my weekends are spent on motorways and with my parents.  I'm missing my friends... I had a lovely evening last night with a bunch of the nears and dears - it was fun .... and lovely to hear how life is moving on for everyone - this winter has been long and cold (and emotionally i've felt quite bleak.... ) but there are good and exciting things taking root all around - new homes being searched for - new jobs - travels being planned....

Lovely things to contemplate .. and anticipate... 

For me it feels like spring is coming in a beautiful way - i leave my job on Tuesday ... i've been there for 3 years and had some of the best and worst of times... i work for an amazing organisation which does incredible work - and i've contributed massively .. but as with everywhere, happiness in a job is more dependent upon the immediate relationships around you than the merits of the wider organisation ... and it is this that i have suffered from. So i am leaving - with modest regret that my time there hasn't been all that it could have been, but also with confidence that i have done everything possible to change things and i 'gave it my best'. But my 'spring' feeling comes from the exciting project that i am joining .... me and my 'business partner' are launching a new organisation - which is scary and exciting all at the same time... the business plan started last october (perfect time for planting) and now is the time for me to join full time to nurture the first shoots as they emerge. We have a big organisation to build so the roots need to be strong! All the signs are good ... and as the months roll by i'm sure i shall start to reveal what we're doing! But ssshhhhhh for now!!!! 

The rest of the bounce in my steps comes from the fact that at the end of March i'm returning to my beloved North London... after a stint 'South of the River' i'm returning to the place that is home - and heading back to Hampstead. So a summer of picnics on the Heath, swimming in the Lido and gardening my new little garden is ahead. 

Oohhhhhhh ... spring is going to be gooooooood....... all of which will give me the emotional nourishment to 'bear' up as we continue to battle Dad's illness.... and hopefully some space to spend more time with friends.... 

So as i contemplate the spring joy ahead in my life - what are you contemplating at the moment? 

And one last luxury ... i promised a photo so here we go ........

The before ......

The After....

Perfect - same same but different!!! 

A la prochaine xxx

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The challenge...

A couple of weeks ago i posted about 'a challenge' i'd given the fabulous Plenderleiths  (you can read about it here) and earlier on this week i went along to see how they'd done - and i'm not disappointed!

Nope - not disappointed at all!

I will post a photo in due course - but just now imagine this ring -
surrounded by two chunky bright silver bands- textured with straight cut sides  - very european, they stack together beautifully, and on my long fingers take up just the right amount of space. Suddenly this beautiful traditional number has started looking all modern, cool and continental. It'll look even better in the summer when even my skin turns from bluey white to warm white!!! I love the contrast between the very traditional and fine detailing on the sapphire ring - the stones and the settings are beautiful - with the 'rustic' solidity of the bands.

The last few months have been pretty stressful - and wreaked havoc with all things 'manicurial' .... (i think i've just made up a word!) so now i have a wonderful motivation to buff, shine and rub oil into my nails and cuticles (ravaged!) so that my rings are worn on fingers worthy of them!!! 

After we'd spent time making sure the rings were sized correctly and they sat perfectly on my hand... we then retreated from the workshop and talked about other 'bits and pieces' that i'd like to do to the jewels that i have ... glasses of wine were poured and we had a lovely old time - so Anne & John are going to dismantle a pair of diamond ear-rings and surprise me with their thoughts. The aim - to add some diamonds to a pretty tear drop amethyst pendant that i have and to leave me with a pair of 'day' diamond ear-rings. 

Lovely ... sparkles..... i will post a photo soon ... and in the meantime if you have an inkling of desire for some fabulous (and reasonable) modern jewelery ... or if there's something you'd like to have made... then visit their website and do contact the fabulous Plenderleiths - they're wonderful! 

a la prochaine xxx

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

London in the rain....

This formed part of my 'Soundtrack to living in Africa' - i was introduced to Hotel Costes by a 'Spring-Fling' before leaving the country (he gave me great emotional diversion from all the stuff that goes with moving overseas - emptying and renting my beloved flat, coping with my step out of the corporate fast lane, saying goodbye to the beloved family dog - Shannon,  and stepping into the unknown) and my leaving gift from him was a series of Mini-Discs (who knew the iPod would storm in so soon?) with both my favourite albums (which he mocked!) and some new introductions - The Dandy Warhols, Fun lovin' criminals, Hotel Costes ... amongst others.

He made me up my little box of 10 Mini Discs (around 50 albums - so not a bad selection) which gave me the confidence as i left the country that no matter where in the world i pitched up - i could turn on some music making the very unfamiliar feel instantly like home.

It worked - he made me some inspired selections
  • The 11'o'clock selection - Perfect for late at night after an evening out - it's tracks built up a party and then chilled down .... 
  • The Driving selection .. 
  • The Chill Out disc 
  • The Party tracks - which seemed to perfectly warm up a party to dancing, keep it going for a while - and then chill down again ... 
I stored some stuff in his attic and flew away - knowing that we had been what we were meant to be and he'd held a lovely space in my life...  

There were times in 'oh so hot' Africa that i would yearn for a cold wet blustery London day - and more than that - i'd yearn to walk into a pub with a roaring fire and a group of friends who knew me of old. The perfect 'London in the rain' kind of day.

A la prochain x

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spring heaven!

How the days can bring huge change... after yesterdays post i woke up this morning and Dad was like a new man - so much stronger and more himself than yesterday. Such a transformation - i do hope for more and more days like this.

There's  a lot to be said for 'mind over body' i'm pretty sure that his 'lift' was in part due to the prospect of us going to see a 'cheeky little sportscar' for him.... the long & the short of it is that he didn't come with me, but i spent most of this glorious day driving the length and breadth of england (believe me!) to see a car that we'd found... so i had lots of thinking time, with the hood down and the sun on my face - it's so restoring being under blue skies (even if most of it is at ahem mph on the M5!) and whilst i was driving i remembered an album that i loved about 10 years ago (The Jazz Passengers with Elvis Costello - Individually Twisted) - i haven't heard it for so long, it's in a box in storage - ooooh i can't wait to move into my new flat at the end of March. For the first time since before i lived in Africa i'll have all of my boxes in one space!!!!

(All those miles are making me deviate.... ) So - to celebrate my pending reunion with so many boxes, Dad being on great form today and the purchase of a rather beautiful little car .... i've attached a couple of great tracks from the album!!!

This is the heavenly Elvis C & Debbie doing quite a cheeky little duet .... 

Bear with this one - It's Debbie Harry singing the funkiest version of 'the Tide is high' ever... at the beginning the sound guys clearly hadn't got the levels right - but they sort them out pretty soon.....
Crazy tune!!!! 

The winds of hope are blowing into life... wishing you all happy weeks -
A la prochaine xxx

Saturday, 6 March 2010


is always a painful thing - so many different ways of experiencing it but there's no nice way. The very nature of it is that something is being taken away from us that we don't want to lose. Sudden and shocking or slow and lingering - at the end of the day it's still loss. 

Dad's renewal forms for his membership at the golf club came through last week - and he's not renewing. So for the first time in my lifetime Dad won't be a member of a golf club.  When mum told me we sat and shed tears together - the stark reality that he's not going to be well enough again to play golf - is almost more painful than the concept that we're going to lose him soon. This is so real. 

Such a little thing that represents so much more.. the first outward sign that this battle is being lost and the light of hope is dimming. 

Before i knew about this Dad and I had been out for a drive,it was a sunny spring day, the hood was down on the car and i couldn't help think that this time last year he was fighting fit and seemed immortal. As we drove past the Golf Club he just said very quietly 'One of my greatest regrets is that i won't play again' made me realise that the cheesy epithet 'live each day as though it were your last' were so true -  there's a random game of golf that he played last August before he fell ill with a 'chest infection' that will live on as his last game of golf. At the time it was 'just another game' - i have no idea who he played with, or how he played .... but that one was the last one he played ..... this was before i knew about the membership - oh how painful  that must have felt for him. 

40 odd years of playing golf - brilliantly and badly - all over the world... and one day last august he played a casual game with some mates (oh i do hope he was playing with people he liked!!) .... and that was it - the end of his game.  I won't play with him again ... i hardly really played with him much... last time was when i lived in the South of France, he played really badly and i played way better than someone who's never really committed to playing regularly deserves to... it makes me laugh now because for 'our last game' it wasn't the most relaxed of affairs ( at one point his putter almost went into a lake!!!!) 

Gradually his conversations are littered with references to his mortality ... 'I should give you my .......' is becoming a frequent comment - and then he drifts off into a quiet land of thoughts .... 

Mum and i closed in together tonight, it's been a tough tough week for her, the golf club is one of many steps that are outwardly stating that this fight is slowly being lost... we just sat and wept for a while..... and then stopped... and hung out with dad watching tv... it comes in waves this sense of loss - sometimes little ones - but this weekend feels like a little tsunami has hit this precious home. 

Dear ones - i never meant this to be the role of this space... but i find the writing so cathartic ... may the daffodils open soon and the spring winds blow in some new hope... 

A la prochaine xxx


Great track - great entertainment ... and i love the fact that Nathalie comes on stage at the end to join in the mime!

Who thought mime could be such a giggle!

A la prochaine xxx

I like this one -

Another spring song - there's spring in the air and a spring in my step when i listen to this! If you like this track - check out  the rest of Joe's album 'I like this one' on iTunes.

A la prochaine xxx

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Jazz heaven...

Last night I had a glorious time in my favourite of all London's jazz clubs.

I wonder if it's my favourite because it's the first real jazz club i went to (oh so long ago at such a tender age)? Or because i go there so often that i feel completely relaxed and at home there? Is it because i'm a regular so know a few faces and feel welcomed?  Or that it's a great venue - intimate and comfortable - dark and seductive - and being one of the best haunts in town the music is always always always good.....

I can't quite put my finger on why it's my favourite - but, dear ones, it is a place that i will happily spend an evening on my own - enjoying a glass of something - lost in the music - feeling utterly content.  I think that says a lot about the ambience, atmosphere and charm of the staff.  I have a backlog of evenings there - occasionally on my own, more often 'a deux' or with groups of friends - sometimes even lucky dates get to come along too. Last night was a gentle evening with a friend from work - having a farewell celebration as soon i am off to pastures new.

I'll admit now that when i got home (at a delicious 3am - ooops!) i did start to write a post, but honestly dear ones, it's coherence reflected the hour & the state of mind - and in an attempt to be reasonably attentive in all my meetings today wisdom prevailed & i chose sleep above writing so here i am now enjoying the opportunity to reflect back on an evening rather than dashing headlong into another!

It was a mad dash from a long day at the office but upon entering the gentle hush of the club the hassles of the world fell from my shoulders and stayed outside in the cold, sharp night. Lovely candlelit tables, deep red velvet banquette to sink into - a menu of cocktails and delicious treats proffered by a charming waiter oooh i was instantly transported to my happy place.  I adore the mix of people that you find in there - nearby was a table with what looked like 3 generations of family celebrating a 70th birthday, couples of all ages, at least one first date, groups of friends, people on their own hanging out and chatting at the bar and a table of 4 guys that looked like father, brother and two sons.... but then again ... you never can tell what the connections are. Beautifully dressed elegance and casual laid back jazz cool - there is a little of everything in every way.

We were in for a treat indeed - the house band were lively and excited and warmed us up well -  the stage was set for a big band extravanganza and as it was introduced we felt that it was the end of an era. The main gig for the evening was Guy Barker with his big band. Last time i saw Guy's big band playing there was a Trombone player - Barnaby Dickinson - who in one evening moved my enjoyment of the trombone from ambivalence to enchantment! And he was back - more than that, this 4 nights in London precedes a tour of Hong Kong so you could sense that the band were excited to be together - there were laughs on stage and much fun during the gig. In addition to the Amadeus Suite, a set of pieces inspired by characters from Mozarts operas (highbrow eh!) we settled in for what they deemed could possibly be their last performance of 'DZf'

DZf is a suite of music which plays alongside a narrative story told by Michael Brandon. Now - if ever there was a 'voice of a jazz bar' Brandon has it - deep and gravelly with a soft and grizzly american accent he 'speaks' jazz within every word.  This man can 'be jazz' without the music. But sit him in front of a 14 piece jazz orchestra and behind a microphone there is no need for pictures - the story is told in unmistakeable style through the words and music.  What a story it is - this is the Magic Flute - retold as never before - thriller writer Robert Ryan takes Mozart's story and translates it into a 'Jazz Noir' tale. Set in Brooklyn the characters are gritty and the music takes you on a journey from seedy bars (hatted brass wah wah waahhing ...) through swingy starsky and hutch style car chase music into big bold James Bond big band jazz....

It was huge!

By this point i saw that the 'first date' had fallen asleep on 'his' shoulders.... (good signs?) ... the 70th birthday were ready to swing ... and the 'four men' were deep into the whisky...  perfect - the evening was taking a grip...

The applause stopped and we had a breather whilst the BBC took over the place - not the normal run of affairs, but it appears that there's a documentary series being filmed 'My First Love' which traces celebrities back to their performing roots....  we were treated to Meera Syal on stage, known as a comedienne, writer and actress she started out as a singer in a jazz band... and she held the stage - with a haunting voice rich with powerful emotion she could easily return to 'Her first love'. She was beautifully humble about the evening as well and seemed truly thrilled to be afforded the 'indulgence' (her words) of singing on such a prestigious stage.

It was now buzzing and suddenly there appeared a couple of friends i hadn't expected to see ... so we left the downstairs club and took off up to the Jam Session upstairs.... there's a completely different vibe upstairs, suddenly much brighter and buzzier - i love that at 2am there were people arriving (with laptop bags - had they really come from the office?!) it's slightly chaotic as the musicians heading home from the west end shows swing by on their way home have a few drinks and jam together - so you never know what you're going to get - but you can guarantee that it'll be good..... last night we were treated to an amazing trumpeter -he dominated the show - wandering off the stage into the middle of the room playing to the moon he was in a world of his own - stunning!

And then after some entertaining chat ... it was time to tear myself away - emerge from this decadent slice of life into the heart of Soho - on a dark, cold and foggy night. 2.30am on a Thursday morning and it's buzzing (- this is what i love of London!) - a taxi cab is free and soon i am whisked home to my warm and cosy space... wondering how on earth i would survive a morning full of hectic meetings!

But i survived - and after all - we only live once xxxx

The stories that a passport can tell...

Today i picked up my new passport from the passport office  - it's very new, the gold embossed crest is very bright, it's stiff and ... well, empty. I didn't really think twice when i was submitting the application - but i'm feeling quite sad that i'm no longer going to be using my old passport.
The decade just closing was one of many travels and adventures - i lived in Africa, travelling widely across the African continent and then explored Australia, New Zealand, USA, Japan and the Middle East - and whenever i pull out my passport it always prompts a moment of reflection about the adventures contained within (as well as a moment of oooh have i got a spare page?).

My passport looked after me well - and at the end of it's decade it looks well worn, well loved and only has 2 empty pages left ... it was time....

Whilst i am an absolute lover of technology and actively promote its use and application as widely and effectively as possible - i do hope that we don't move to a 'sim card' type of passport - tracking and recording our movements onto a microchip (oooh that does sound sinister) - there's something utterly romantic about having a passport physically stamped - as a record of our footsteps around the world. Seeing the different languages on each page and the visas stuck randomly about feels like a precious record.  Being greeted into a new country by the (often surly) immigration official is one of those moments of 'officialdom' that holds a slight frisson of tension - sometimes executed in silence - sometimes it's like a mini interrogation (are they really trying to catch me out?!) until eventually the imposing stamp is pounded into the pages of my passport and i'm free to explore a whole new territory. It's so simple to travel these days - but that moment is still a precious and exciting one ...

So my old passport is useless - with corners removed - i have a new 28 pages to fill - i wonder what adventures this one has in store.....

A la prochaine x

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Skip out the back Jack - Make a new plan Stan ....

I love this track - there's something cheeky and playful about it. I remember hearing it when i was a teenager and wondering if i would ever have such a carefree attitude to romance - 

And i'll always chose Rosemary Clooney's version above Paul Simon - she adds such wit and depth to the lyrics. 

For such a topic - why does this song make me smile so? 

A la prochaine xx

Ultimate indulgence -

Occasionally when i'm not lusting over new jewels and dreaming of beautiful music i think that taking a bath in the afternoon is the ultimate indulgence.  Possibly because afternoon bathing is associated with beautiful evenings ahead - and somehow there's something utterly decadent about bathing in bright sunlight.
There are other times though when having a bath is an act of retreat - when it is important to find a place of solitude and tranquil peace -  when having a bath not only cleans us physically, but gives our minds a breather from everything going on.
This is what i think Dodie Smith captures beautifully -
"I believe it is customary to get one's washing over first in baths and bask afterwards; personally, I bask first. I have discovered that the first few minutes are the best and not to be wasted-- my brain always seethes with ideas and life suddenly looks much better than it did."
— Dodie Smith (I Capture the Castle)

A la prochaine xx

Spring is in the air....

The milder days and the blue skies are definitely bringing with them the feeling that the long winter is coming to an end - perfect moment to and celebrate with something warm and summery.

I stumbled across Ernest Ranglin a couple of years ago whilst having coffee with friends at Spitalfields market - we were slightly fragile from a party the night before and after an hour or so's mooching we found a fabulous coffee hideout - right next to a music stall. The stall was playing 'Below the Bassline' - Ernest Ranglin and i was enchanted - i bought it straight away and it's become a real saturday morning soundtrack.

It's chilled out and funky with a reggae beat - but above all it's happy music - i can't imagine not smiling to it. 

So welcome, dear ones to Spring - the sun is coming and the grey skies are disappearing - sit back and lift your face to the sun whilst this plays.

A la prochaine x