Dark November Days – digging out from the doldrums?

Friday 30 November, 2018

Doldrums for the weather and for my blog. Hopefully, the photos will tell the story of what’s been happening during this mostly dreary month. With any luck my ennui won’t show!

Taken early in November. The bark is going and the leaves getting sparse
Taken early in November from my window. The bark is going and the leaves getting sparse
Street art in the back streets of Dalston - ethereal, magical
Street art in the back streets of Dalston – ethereal, magical
A catfish noodle salad box at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central
A catfish noodle salad box at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central – Passable, cheap, not really a salad!

Behind the counter at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central
Behind the counter at Bánh Mì Hội-An, Hackney Central

Continue reading “Dark November Days – digging out from the doldrums?”

The heat keeps me indoors – most of the time

Friday, 14 September, 2018 30C or so and humid

I say I’m happy to stay home but it would be nice to go out too, so that’s becoming a big issue for me right now. The heat continues and it’s humid, with no end in sight. Earlier forecasts had shown this coming week to be in the mid twenties but instead 29 is more the figure. Nothing I can do about the weather but I’m gathering ideas for hot weather and shut-in ideas.

Ideas? Here’s what I’ve done so far.

First hot weather idea. I made a doll! She's called Ciao so far
First hot weather idea. I made a doll! She’s called Ciao so far
Second idea - eat leftovers! Agnoletti and burata
Second idea – eat leftovers! Agnoletti and burata
Third idea - watch really cheesy (and unPC) Italian television
Third idea – watch really cheesy (and un-PC) Italian television

There’s also watching Amazon Prime and Netflix. I am following the new Better Call Saul series. I finished watching series 3 of Poldark and very ready for series 4 – that might have to wait till London since BBC probably won’t play for me here – we shall see. I’m also working my way through the quirky Halt and Catch Fire series 2.  Very annoyed that I can’t see This is Us series 2 without purchasing a TV subscription – that is not going to happen!

We also spent time watching a rather spectacular lightning storm, which started in the clouds over the Alps and eventually reached us with some high winds and drenching rain. It sadly did nothing to abate the heat more than just for that evening.

Friday I planned to get out but again the heat stopped me. But I thought maybe we could go out later, for dinner. We were out of food. I booked a place that sells plates of local meats and cheeses but eventually Krish opted out and so we thought about what to do instead.

Krish suggested walking around Borgo Dora and see where we could eat, with a fallback for pizza nearby. Done!

I made a deal to look at restaurants and pick one for each week and actually go! Also I still plan to go alone when I can – for lunch.

First we did a big loop around the Galleria Umberto.  Nothing to interest His Fussiness there. Then we headed into Borgo Dora ro see what we could see.

From Via Milano looking across Piazza della Repubblica to Borgo Dora
From Via Milano looking across Piazza della Repubblica to Borgo Dora
Borgo Dora was quiet at first and then it got livelier
Borgo Dora was quiet at first and then it got livelier
But we ended up with local pizza anyway. It was as hot as the pizza oven in here so we took it home
But we ended up with local pizza anyway. It was as hot as the pizza oven in here so we took it home
Our pizzas - 4 Staggione an a gorgonzola and pear
Our pizzas – 4 Staggione an a gorgonzola and pear

A diversion. Pizza in Italy. So I always imagined I would come to Italy and think, well, this is what a pizza is supposed to taste like! But that has never happened. A good pizza anywhere is as good as a pizza in Italy. Yes! Disappointed? However, it’s hard to find a bad pizza in Italy. This pizza, from a local place called Saraceno,  has a chewy and salty crust. It’s not bad.

Last year when we came here, we arrived on the night the neighbourhood was having a street party. Everyone was sitting at a long table on the street eating together. This year it’s happening again but seems to be somewhere else. I will investigate. Krish has suggested we could go and I’d make my pesto potato salad. We had some fun talking about how a curry might not go over so well. I wonder how the potato salad would be received?

Neighbourhood Festival
Neighbourhood Festival

Hazy summer days

Monday 30 July, 2018

The summer has continued very hot, sometimes with very little breeze. It’s hard to do much and people outside are quick-tempered and slow-moving. London in the heat isn’t a pretty thing.

I’ve stayed indoors as much as I can. And I decided to buy myself a Sindy doll. I really want one from the 60s, when I would have had my first one, but they are scarce and expensive. I got one from the 80s instead. She’s called Bunches. Her clothing is very flimsy but I made her a crinoline petticoat so that her skirt would fill out. I’m not convinced it looks right but it will do for now. I’ll keep my eyes out for another.

Sindy - Bunches
Sindy – Bunches
The grass has turned to gold and I wish I had a garden. Out back.
The grass has turned to gold and I wish I had a garden. Out back.

My friend, Susanne, and I used to meet quite often. We met through DigitalEve UK. She was feisty and interesting and had come to London from Austria. When her work contracted ended she had a lot of trouble finding something new. So I mentioned eModeration to her, as a stopgap, where she could find a job from home using her German. She’s gone from strength to strength and now works fulltime for them. So it’s much harder to pin her down for a meeting.

But we made it! I sent Susanne, a fellow foodie, a list of ‘hot’ restaurants and she chose The Smoking Goat Bar on Redchurch Street. Susanne is familiar with Northern Thai food so was game to try the new place. My review:

I got there to a quiet restaurant and asked to be sat near the back, where it seemed quieter. Back here there are low stools rather than chairs. There’s a good view of the bar area, where barbecuing takes place. By the time we left it was heaving with people.

We were recommended four sharing dishes so we deliberated. Here’s what we had:

Barbecue Tamworth Skewer – 1 each. This is marinated belly pork alternated with some of its fat and barbecued on skewers
Gai Yang Chicken with Sriracha – This had an extraordinary sour and spicy flavour that surprised me. I would have this again, while from the menu it hadn’t sounded interesting at all (friend’s choice)
Smoked Aubergine with Egg & Chill – an intensely smoky whole small aubergine with a lovely runny poached egg and some lovely herbs
Northern Thai Style Mutton Laab – this was a bit salty but delicious. It was strewn with herbs and chili. Spicy!
Stir Fried Cornish Greens & Soy – our nod to vegetables. Nicely done!
Lardo Fried Rice – I chose it since it’s described in reviews as ‘A must-have.’ So we had to have it! The rice was greasy in a good way and studded with green chillies, crispy lardo and some egg. I did really like it but now I’ve had it, I’ve had it and would move on to a plain jasmine rice, which I hear is bottomless.

I’d go again! (And the price was a nice surprise!)



Continue reading “Hazy summer days”

Dolls n things

Today is Tuesday, 26 June, 2018

This long post is about my hobby of dollmaking. Thanks for looking!

I used to make dolls a long time ago – in the 70s and 80s – but fell out of the habit. I wasn’t a doll kind of child, though. My sister liked them but I didn’t really get the appeal. One day I got a Sindy doll – it was the British Barbie equivalent. First thing I did was take off all her clothes and start creating new ones for her. I loved the Sindy doll, though, and thought her far more fashionable than the Barbie. She came about, after all, when Britain was the centre of fashion.

Sindy doll - not mine!
Sindy doll – not mine!

My dream of being a fashion designer, then a fashion artist, fell by turn. I made a few dolls many years ago and then I just stopped. Life took me in another direction. The early dolls were made entirely from whatever materials I could find in the remnant bins, whatever clothes I could cut up from the dollar bags at Goodwill and other charity places, whatever leftover wool I could find there… and this continues till today. My first place to look are in the remnant bins, and on local searches for donations, and even my old clothing that is too far gone to pass along. There’s a satisfaction in that.

Here’s a photo of a very early doll that I made for my mum. Not the first, but maybe the second or third. There are a couple of old ones at Robin’s place if they haven’t been thrown away – I’ll check. Looking at this one now, I see that it’s far too long, that the head is way too small (although maybe I should return to that shape of head) , that the details are sparse. But I also see that it held promise and I’m pleased I’ve evolved. I rescued this doll after mum died – she’s a good memory.  And I’ve stuck to more or less what I created way back then.

Very early doll
Very early doll – notice the thumbs are pointing in different directions – oops!

I had thoughts of starting again a couple of years ago. My first one was clumsy and I thought I must have lost it completely. I’m a bit ashamed of those first attempts and I’ve shoved them to near the bottom of this blog entry. They are getting better. I’m terrible at sewing, always have been, but I have ideas. Because I’m not a good needleworker, I concentrate on the details – lace and such cover a multitude of sins. After looking through Etsy, I see what others do and I know I could never produce those commercial-looking dolls but I think mine are quintessentially me – moving through life as I do, making the most of what talent I have, what materials are on hand, and what occurs to me might work.

I start with an idea and as I sew, the doll reveals herself to me. She often has different thoughts for how she needs to be than I do.  (Well, I am called ‘slightly weird,’ after all!)  When someone requests one, I want to know first if they’d like one that crowd my bookshelf and then, if nothing works, I want to know hair and eye colour, preferred colour palette, style, and the new owner’s personal interests.

I have a lot of them now. I won’t sell them, although it’s been suggested. I prefer to give them to people who need or want them, in exchange for knowing what their names will be and receiving a selfie of them with their newly adopted doll. Surprisingly, not many comply.

Another thing I’ve made over the years are hearts. I started when I was married and I’ve begun again. I want to start making more of these so I’ve included a couple that I’ve made and photographed.

Some dolls are missing, not all the photos are here. I’ll add any that show up. My bad cataloguing skills mean I can’t find all the selfies. But there’s enough.

And more to come!

Buckle up – photos galore.

Sophistique
Sophistique
A bit serious
A bit serious
She seems quirky/scatty - maybe a bit like me
She seems quirky/scatty – maybe a bit like me

Butter wouldn't meltButter wouldn’t melt

She's so posh
She’s so posh
Ruth's doll
Ruth’s doll
Sophisticated
Sophisticated
Chinese New Year Doll
Chinese New Year Doll
Witch doll for Joanne
Witch doll for Joanne
Esmeralda's doll
Esmeralda’s mini doll
This Italian girl is now Fiona's
This Italian girl is now Fiona’s
Debutante
Debutante
Coy
Coy
Elfin
Elfin
Rock Chick for Jenn
Rock Chick for Jenn
Mizpah's doll
Mizpah’s doll – the first selfie. She called her Dolly.
Lisa's suffragette doll
Lisa’s suffragette doll – not the best photo, must find one better
Styling
Styling
Bollywood
Bollywood
Townie
Townie
Traveller
Traveller
Self confidence
Self confidence

Party girl
Party girl
Tea time
Tea time
Zen
Zen
Confidante
Confidante
Schoolgirl
Schoolgirl
Clubbie
Clubbie
Ingenue
Ingenue
Cutie
Cutie
Prim'n'Proper
Prim’n’Proper
Scarlett Pumpernickel
Scarlett Pumpernickel
Heiress
Little Heiress
Valentine heart for Krish
Valentine heart for Krish
Mini heart for Allison and Joe
Mini heart for Allison and Joe
The quads are at home
The quads are at home – Italy
Gaggle of girls
Gaggle of girls
Trio
Trio
Country girl
Country girl – early doll
Teacher
Teacher – early doll
A shy one
A shy one – early doll

Hackney Downs Park, Upper Clapton

Wednesday, 6 June, 2018

I’ve been making two dolls in sarees for Shahanaz. It was a real challenge but I now know how to wrap a saree, not that I’d like that headache too often! And to be really honest, after making so many cute dolls, I didn’t like them very much at all by the time I’d finished. So I asked Shahanaz to meet me so that we could rip out a few stitches and re-sew until they were right.

The saree sisters!
The saree sisters!

We were meeting on Hackney Downs since it’s halfway between us. I don’t go there so often these days.

Tennis courts at the Bodney Street entrance
Tennis courts at the Bodney Street entrance
Mosaic, a mental health social enterprise inside the park
Mosaic, a mental health social enterprise inside the park
Seating at the centre
Seating at the centre
It's a big park!
It’s a big park!

Luckily, Shahanaz didn’t want too much to change. We changed the position of the shoulder areas and pleated the back a little and then we took a photo of them on the bench with their optional head scarves. Usually, we go for coffee – She’s discovering coffee! – but it’s Ramadan so I hope our next visit together is a bit more delicious.

The finished dolls ready for delivery, and my feet!
The finished dolls ready for delivery, and my feet!

Krish has had a bad back ache for about a week. This is from an old injury that every now and again flares up. The usual announcement is a loud yell from the bed when he can’t move or get up from lying down. He’s reluctant to talk to doctors about anything and it might take a while to book an appointment, attend it, and get attention. So I suggested he try the Osteopaths at Core Clapton, where I went last year for a nagging shoulder pain. You can book online and there are often same-day appointments. I booked one for him for Wednesday, when I could go with him.

It’s a ten-minute bus ride away in Upper Clapton on Northwold Road so we headed up there and went inside.

Reception area at Core Clapton
Reception area at Core Clapton
Somewhat minimal but flexible space at Core Clapton
Somewhat minimal but flexible space at Core Clapton

Several squinty minutes with the registration form later, he was in there while I waited and wandered around a little. Core Clapton is designed for accessibility. They have a range of pay what you can services and the atmosphere is casual but definitely not amateur. The fact that a smiling Krish emerged 45 minutes later and booked another visit was a huge relief! And it was a lovely day so we walked home.

Ghost sign on Northworld Road
Ghost sign on Northworld Road
Northwold Road outside Core Clapton
Northwold Road outside Core Clapton
The Crooked Billet Pub, Upper Clapton Road
The Crooked Billet Pub, Upper Clapton Road
Clapton Station, one stop away from my nearest station
Clapton Station, one stop away from my nearest station
Slice of a building - looks flat from the front!
Slice of a building – looks flat from the front!
Heavy Jewish population in Clapton
Heavy Jewish population in Clapton
Tram Store, cafe and shop
Tram Store, cafe and shop
At the Lea Bridge roundabout
At the Lea Bridge roundabout
Clapton Pond - not sure why it's called a pond!
Clapton Pond – not sure why it’s called a pond!
Heading along to Lower Clapton Road
Heading along to Lower Clapton Road

Along Upper Clapton Road is The Round Chapel. The impressive building as we know it today opened in 1871 but it began in 1804 when it was a nonconformist, congregationalist church in 1804 at the nearby Old Gravel Pit Chapel. The Gravel Pit Chapel was in turn a breakaway group from the Ram’s Chapel in Homerton.

Hackney has had a lot of groupings and regroupings since the 17th century, since it was always a nonconformist area. These churches didn’t conform to the rules of the Church of England. Abney Park and Bunhill cemeteries, for example, were nonconformist burial grounds – both within Hackney. There were also three nonconformist academies – Homerton, Newington Green and Hoxton – which produced nonconformist figures like Daniel Defoe, and  hymn writer Isaac Watts.

By 1868 the population had more than tripled and the much bigger Clapton Park (“Round”) Chapel was built. The population of the area grew massively and more houses sprang up.Then at the turn of the century, the congregation dwindled as people moved away to the outer suburbs.

The Chapel is a Grade II building, in the top 4% of protected buildings in the UK. This is in part due to its architecture – the unique round shape and its cast iron columns, controversial since they were typically used only in music halls and railway stations. Today the Hackney Building Trust has taken over the main auditorium and some rooms, while the adjoining Old School Rooms are kept by the church. The building was refurbished and is used as an event and workshop venue.

The Round Chapel
The Round Chapel